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Rocky V
1990 - PG - 104 Mins.
Director: John G. Avildsen
Producer: Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler
Written By: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Share, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith, Sage Stallone
Review by: John Ulmer
“Touch me and I’ll sue,” says a boxing promoter to Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) towards the end of “Rocky V.” Rocky hesitates, then reconsiders, clenches his fist and knocks the guy out. “Sue me for what?” he says, and walks away rather happily with his wife (Talia Shire) and son (Sage Stallone) treating him like a god.

Well, how about assault? Yep, Rocky’s brain ain’t A-okay in “Rocky V” – his beating in the ring at the end of “Rocky IV” has gone to his head (literally) and now he can’t fight again or he’ll risk being the next Muhammad Ali. (Not that Rocky necessarily had any brains to begin with.)

Most people complain that the “Rocky” sequels are repetitive. They forget “Rocky V”: This one, rumored to be the final installment (but Sly wants to do yet another!), is totally different from all the rest. (Which is surprising, since John G. Avildsen – director of “Rocky” – returned only for this one.) I give kudos to Sly for going somewhere new with this film.

Example? Unlike the predecessors, “Rocky V” takes its character out of training, throws away his fortunes, implies permanent brain damage, and basically tells us that this movie isn’t going to be about boxing. Instead, it’ll be about Rocky trying to adjust back to the gritty side of life. (Which isn’t the perfect closing to a series that is all about a nobody becoming somebody. It’s the essence of the series.)

Even the final fight in “Rocky V” is wholly different from the others – it takes place outside, “on the streets,” where Rocky has an unrestricted fight with a guy two times his size. (Guess who wins.)

Unfortunately, the slight originality of “Rocky V” doesn’t win it any points – it is a poor movie by all standards, featuring Sylvester Stallone’s worst performance as the titular character. At first it was realistic, then it sort of became comedic; by “Rocky V,” it was downright ridiculous.

The dialogue is stiff and wooden. The acting is worse. And the direction is messy -- more kudos to Sly for managing to write and direct all of the “Rocky” sequels (save “V”) and maintain the focus of the first. Avildsen’s return behind the camera harms the movie. Why? On the Special Edition DVD of “Rocky,” Avildsen explains that he told the cinematographer to mimic the style of the first film. “But that looked like a documentary!” he was told.

And so “Rocky V” looks less like a gritty, realistic documentary and more like an MTV video presentation – during the final fight, the handheld pushes in on the faces of anxious spectators, causing instant nausea. Back-and-forth it goes, again and again, rapidly moving to the beat of some ‘90s rock/rap song.

The film chronicles Rocky’s fall – Paulie (Burt Young) blows the family’s fortunes, a new fighter becomes the Heavyweight Champion, and Rocky is left with the grim reality of…nothing.

He takes a job at Mickey’s (Burgess Meredith, who makes a flashback cameo) old gym as a trainer, which is where he coaches a new boxer, and ultimately finds a new villain to fight. The movie goes nowhere else – it isn’t the bold character study that “Rocky” was, nor does it contain the uplifting, victorious underdog message.

If nothing else, this proves that Rocky – the character and the films – doesn’t translate well onto the screen nowadays. With firmer grasp of direction, perhaps it would – which is why, to be totally honest, I’m not so disappointed to hear that another “Rocky” could be coming along soon. I’m sure it will be a more fitting conclusion to the series than this.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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