Day Fifteen: Rocky V (MotM 2021)

This is my cover for this film. I’m not even gonna bother with the promotional art. I’m tired.

Here it is. This is Rocky V. The black sheep. Everyone hates this film. A spit on the face to the Rocky franchise. For years, this was the end of the franchise—nothin’ else left to say. Rocky made his last hoorah. I heard a lot of baaaad things about this one. So, obviously, I was prepared for the worst. What better way to “end” (until 2006) the Rocky franchise than with a hilariously bad dud. I was ready.

It was better than Rocky III and IV.

All right, so a lot of fans may not like to hear (see?) that. I get it, this film did a lot of weird things with the franchise. Rocky doesn’t get into a, uh, “real” fight, so to say. He kind of takes a backseat in this film, both for his son and some random up-and-comer from nowhere. It’s not as emotionally exhilarating as prior films (debatable, I feel), though I can respect that they didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again. It was a solid change-up.

Some say this is a racist caricature. It probably is.

Now, this doesn’t excuse how incredibly mismanaged a lot of the themes were. Despite being the longest film since Rocky II, it still can’t escape either being too bloated or too thin. Some stretches are are kind of glossed over, like Rocky making up with his son. Others go on for way, way too long—montages and winks to prior films aplenty. My favorite part of the film was actually the first twenty to twenty-five minutes; it established the deterioration of Rocky fairly well and the downfall of his finances. Could’ve been explained a little better, but it never came across as stupid or goofy. It was paced pretty well.

As it went on, the cracks started to show and the writing shone through with the vibrancy of mud. A little too straightforward, with all that occurs past the point where Rocky agrees to take on the aforementioned up-and-comer being predictable and mild. Watching this with my brother, I was able to spot an upcoming conflict that brews just as the up-and-comer comes into contact with Rocky’s family. He didn’t see it until it become obvious—it always became obvious.

Is it obvious that this dude’s gonna be sore?

Something that became a hot tamale later on, near the very end… was the end. Out of all of the endings to these damn movies, this one is by far the funniest. Rocky’s pulling off martial art combat, the camera’s shaking like mad and blurring the shots, it takes three or four shots to show Rocky performing a German suplex; an absolutely madhouse. A broken down, raw exhibition of intensity, absurdity, and ROCK-Y BAL-BOA. It was glorious. Some say that the third and fourth films are great for their cartoonish aspects. I’ll take the fifth film’s ending for all entertainment purposes.

Going back to fan response, again, I get it. This didn’t really adhere to much to the Rocky formula, so to say. No big comeback, no big fight; whatever “underdog” theme you could take from this is… uh… I couldn’t say. It’s more like a family drama with a little boxing sprinkled in… just for kicks. (Punches?) Personally, that was one of the more refreshing parts about this. Dealing with the aftermath, the realization that there’s nothing left in life for a fighter after retirement. Shades of Apollo Creed in Rocky III, only given more than ten minutes to flesh out.

Gosh, dad! Leave me alone!

It’s just the execution. Funnier and dumber as it goes on. Like Stallone or whomever wrote this was looking more at the big picture and not stressing the details. I appreciate that method, as I do it often, but you have to plan these things out for something special. Rocky was “special.” It had a message and it had the backbone to tell a story and develop its plotlines. This is kind of like when a film is four sequels in and they’re just doing whatever they think sounds good anymore… yeah.

Originally the end of the franchise, it’s kind of a bland sendoff, though nothing so detestable that I think it deserves “black sheep” status. It’s no worse than the last film, and better than the third. Really, if you want my recommendation, watch the first and second films. Those are the only two that are really worth it. Third and fourth are like condensed, cheesy versions of the two prior, and then the fifth is a family sitcom, I guess. Who’s to say what Rocky Balboa, the late sixth entry, will do for the franchise? Some say it’s as good as the first… I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

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