Rocky V, by Albert W. Vogt III

Here we are, Rocky V (1990).  The series at some point became a punchline for how many sequels have been made.  I will not trouble with you any of the jokes, but you can probably get the picture just by knowing there is a fifth one.  And this is not even the last iteration.  Having said that, I am not sure poking fun at them is fair.  Sure, they can be a little cheesy.  They get progressively sillier as they go on, and this last one is no exception.  Yet, the thing that has continued to impress me about them is that they are less about boxing, and more about a guy navigating life.  Pugilism is simply the vehicle for the life lessons learned.  If they were simply about two guys punching each other, there would be more technical aspects to the sport in the films.  Robert “Rocky” Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is an actual character.  Granted, he kind of has the same arc in every film, but it is present nonetheless.

Once more, like its predecessors, Rocky V begins with a recap of the film before it.  We see Rocky defeat Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundren) in the Soviet Union.  Once that is over, we are taken to a battered Rocky in the locker room following the fight, uncontrollably shaking.  His devoted wife, Adrianna “Adrian” (Talia Shire), finds him in this state, and she is insistent that her husband retire.  She remains convicted on this matter when they return from the Soviet Union after the fight, even as a new promoter named George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) tries to get Rocky into the ring once more.  He has a challenger for Rocky’s title, Union Cane (Michael Williams), and George is insistent that Union be given the shot.  Rocky does not say much, despite the huge amount of money George wants to throw at the proposed bout.  Rocky can gracefully bow out of the match because he has made all the money he needs from the sport, and he is ready to spend more time with his son Robert “Rocky” Jr. (Sage Stallone).  Enter Paulie Pennino (Burt Young).  Though not pictured, apparently Paulie gave power of attorney to Rocky’s accountant before they left for Russia.  This accountant turns out to be a thief and swindles all the Balboas’ money.  They are forced to sell their vast estate and move back to the run-down Philadelphia neighbor they had escaped.  Adrian returns to work for the pet shop, and Rocky takes over the gym of his former manager, the late Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith).  Rocky Jr. also must begin school with the kind of rough children that his father once mixed with, and with whom the kid is ill-equipped to handle.  This is made evident when on the first day, Rocky Jr. is beat up by a couple of bullies who steal his jacket.  Yet, just as the son needed dad to help him deal with the mean Philadelphia streets, dad’s attention is drawn to a new project.  Namely, it is the arrival of a new boxer named Tommy “The Machine” Gunn (Tommy Morrison).  He is eager to learn from Rocky, and not willing to take no for an answer.  Though Rocky tries to put Tommy off at first, he sees a lot of himself in the younger boxer.  Rocky even invites Tommy to live with him while he trains, which is convenient for Tommy as he has nowhere else to go.  As per usual, we get a series of training montages.  Rocky and Tommy start fighting, with Tommy winning bout after bout. Meanwhile, with Rocky’s time increasingly taken up by the new challenger, Junior becomes more street wise and distant from his father.  These two paths are taken to their extremes.  Eventually, Tommy comes to believe what others are saying about him, that he is a clone of Rocky and living in the shadow of the former champion.  As for Junior, he has learned to not only beat the bullies, but become friends with them.  This all comes to a head on Christmas.  With a half-drunk Paulie playing Santa Claus, Junior rages against the ruse and storms out with his new companions.  Shortly thereafter, Tommy arrives with George, giving the news that he is dropping Rocky as a manager.  Rocky is displeased, but to his credit, instead of chasing after Tommy and trying to assuage his former protégé’s feelings, he decides to reconnect with his estranged son.  Rocky finds Junior on a street corner, smoking, but apologizes for not being there for his flesh and blood.  Rocky is also not all the upset with Tommy, even though their parting is not amicable.  This is evident by the emotion he shows as Tommy is given his chance to gain the heavyweight title.  His cheers are genuine, though he is also happy with his life.  The person who is not happy is Tommy.  After getting the belt, the press suggests that his victory is phony, and that his opponent had been handpicked for him to win.  He is enraged further when another reporter says that he will never be a fighter like Rocky.  In response, Tommy returns to Rocky’s area of Philadelphia and finds his former manager in a bar.  With cameras rolling, Tommy challenges Rocky to a fight.  Rocky ignores the young man’s brazenness until Tommy knocks out Paulie.  From there, it is a brawl that spills out into the streets, with, unsurprisingly, Rocky triumphing once more.  Unlike previous films, this one ends with father and son on the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art where his statue stands.

Rocky V would have been a fitting way to end the series, but I am not in charge of such things.  Then again, who am I to say when there is money that is made off of these films.  As I said in the introduction, these movies get silly.  What I can appreciate about them is the way in which the characters stick together.  In any other film of this ilk, Adrian would be threatening to leave Rocky at every turn, giving our main character more about which to worry.  Being a good wife, or husband on Rocky’s part, is not the sole purview of Catholicism.  At the same time, these people are avowed Catholics.  They do not hide this aspect.  Indeed, Rocky tells Tommy at one point that he loves getting blessings from his parish priest.  I have discussed in other reviews in the series how being a Catholic does not automatically make someone a nun or priest.  Being a practicing Catholic means incorporating the Faith into one’s life.  It becomes a filter by which the rest of the world is experienced.  This is a big reason why I started The Legionnaire.  The faithful are baptized, maybe go to Mass as they grow up, and often get lost in our popular culture at some point.  You see this with Rocky Jr. as he is consumed by the streets.  I hope that by learning that you can watch these films and keep your true identity as a child of God, I will have contributed something to the body of Christ.  These movies demonstrate that it takes all kinds.

Having seen and reviewed Rocky V, I know that there is one more about the title character.  Then we shall get into the Creed movies.  I have seen the first one already, but do not remember much about it.  We shall see.


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