Rocky (1976)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for boxing violence and some language

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Directed by: John G. Avildsen

Written by: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, and Burgess Meredith

Sylvester Stallone’s break out film is one of the greatest character studies of all time. I know, if you haven’t seen this film you’re probably skipping over this like “Wow, another sports movie.” But, trust me, that’s not this film; this is not a film that’s surrounded by sports. This is actually just about a guy who just so happens to box for a living. Stallone distinguishes himself from other action stars by containing pure sentimental background; as well as giving you some of the most lovable characters to ever grace the screen. Rocky is triumphant yet honest as it shows the differences in social status and personality.

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Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a poor, uneducated boxer who collects money for a loan shark on the side. The owner of the local boxing gym, Mickey (Burgess Meredith), wants nothing to do with him and reprimands him for his living outside the ring. Rocky lives his life mostly roaming the streets of Pennsylvania, going and visiting his shy crush, Adrian (Talia Shire), at the pet shop she works at; as well as her loud mouth brother, Paulie (Burt Young) at the local bar. When his life seems to be at an all time low, he is offered an opportunity to fight for the world heavyweight championship against the egotistical, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

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The chemistry between Adrian and Rocky makes the love story aspect of the film work perfectly. The idea of their relationship (Rocky is the brawn, Adrian is the brain) and how they both work together to make a whole person makes their moments completely memorable. As a couple, their personal growth is obvious in the fact that they both make each other a new person. Adrian’s presence makes Rocky turn into putty as he occasionally opens up his heart, showing that he’s not just a tough meathead and he really wants to be seen as somebody.

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“If that bell rings and I’m still standing, then I’ll know for the first time in my life that I wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood.” I could make a whole review out of quotes just like this one. 90% of this film is filler and conversations, but is surprisingly entertaining. The writing had to be extremely intelligent to make a two hour film that is made up mostly of dialogue a thoroughly enveloping experience. Rocky is not a great film because of the training montage or final boxing match. It is rather a great film due to the connections between the characters and simple moments such as when he takes Adrian out on their first date or he walks a twelve year old troubled girl home. What sets this film apart from the other films is the emotional weight that builds behind all these wonderfully developed characters.

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One scene that stuck with me after watching the film was actually the scene directly before the final scene. Rocky is standing inside the ring alone in the middle of the night, and the way he walks and his strong gaze put deep feelings inside of me. It reminds me of the nights before you know something big is going to happen but have to just sit and wait in anxious anticipation. Also, the transition in Rocky from being a nobody who has nothing to somebody who gets a shot at the biggest title he could imagine is displayed extraordinarily. His apartment is disgusting and nothing is intact, even his clothes are old and torn. Then he goes on to be on television and be seen as one of the biggest people in Philadelphia. There’s also a few amazing shots in this film of Rocky reflecting on himself, once at a picture of himself as a kid and another of him reflecting on a huge banner with him printed on it that I wanted to mention.

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The theater experience was generally fantastic, I noticed so much more and realized how comedic much of this film is. But, there was also a time in the theater where people were laughing at a part that I was genuinely moved by. Rocky was yelling at Mickey and he is just so poorly educated that he couldn’t create a very bright response. It makes the scene very realistic and saddening. But, overall the experience in the theater made me enjoy Rocky more than ever.

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My opinion on the ending of Rocky has slowly changed over the years. If you did not know, Rocky loses in a split decision that ultimately chooses Apollo Creed. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why this movie was great for the sole fact that Rocky doesn’t win. It builds you up all the way to the ending just for Rocky to lose and I hated it. But, as I age, I’ve come to realize that if Rocky were to win at the end, the film would ultimately lose it’s uniqueness and ruin the fact that all Rocky truly wanted to do in the beginning was to go the distance and that was what he accomplished. Then the great, final Adrian scream leads into one of my favorite final shots of all time.


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The most popular boxing film of all time is truly more than meets the eye. If you’re biased about sports films and aren’t interested in this in the slightest, all I can say is give it a watch; and if you don’t like it, then give it another watch. If you still don’t like it, I don’t like you (mostly kidding). But, in all seriousness, this is one of my favorite films and I am completely incapable of hating anything to do with this. The more I try to find something I don’t like, I find ten more things I’ve never noticed that makes me love it even more.

Grade: A+


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