December 2, 2006 -- The sixth and probably final film in the famed Rocky series is perhaps the best of the lot. It's got a lot of heart and is surprisingly moving. Despite the ridiculous premise that a 60-year-old has-been fighter could stay in the ring for 10 rounds with a champion in the prime of his career, I was absolutely caught up in the emotional pull of this film and was swept along in its wake. It is one powerful ride.
We find the widowed Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote and directed this film) running a restaurant during his retirement, still struggling with the loss of his wife, Adrian (Talia Shire, shown in flashbacks) and having trouble connecting to his son, Rocky Jr. (played by Milo Ventimiglia of the “Heroes” TV series). He still hangs out with his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young). The two talk about stuff “in the basement,” their code for emotional baggage, particularly Rocky's anger over the death of his wife. A computerized match between Rocky and the current champ, Mason “The Line” Dixon (played by Antonio Tarver, a real boxer who would beat the snot out of Stallone if he was seriously fighting) gives Rocky the idea of fighting again. Due to an absence of legitimate challengers, fight promoters cook up a fight between Rocky and Dixon.
The rest of the movie is the usual musical training montages and fight scenes with an excessive number of flashbacks to the earlier movies in the series. One interesting scene shows Rocky in black and white. Only the blood on his face is in color. Flashbacks during the fight show the late Burgess Meredith, who played Rocky's trainer in the first film, and Talia Shire, who played Rocky's wife in the other films in the series. There are also flashbacks to other fights. Like the first film, the fight ends in such a way that there really isn't a loser. This is all part of the Rocky formula. The film has a nice balance between character development, drama, comedy and action. There is a semi-romance between Rocky and a single mother, Marie (played by Geraldine Hughes). There is also a nice relationship between Rocky and Marie's son, Steps (James Francis Kelly III).
This probably isn't the last hurrah of the Baby Boom generation, of which Stallone is one of the oldest, but if it is, it is a classy way to end its run. This film will remind everyone again why Stallone was perhaps the greatest star in Hollywood during his prime. He is a gifted writer and director. His acting skills are underestimated. It should also be noted that this comeback story is not without precedent. It happened in real life when George Foreman, who is younger than Stallone, by the way, became the oldest man in history to regain the heavyweight world boxing title after a long layoff from boxing. Maybe someday someone will make a movie about George Foreman's career. It is a great story. This film rates a B+.
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