Awfully Good: Rocky IV + Rocky V (Video)
This year I'm thankful for CREED bringing Rocky Balboa back in to our lives…
Rocky IV (1985)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Talia Shire
Rocky Balboa prepares for the fight of his life—defeating the USSR and ending the Cold War.
I recognize that ROCKY IV is a pretty bad film, but, man, is it great.
By the third sequel, the series loses a lot of what made Rocky Rocky. What started as a personal story about being an underdog and seeking redemption has somehow morphed in to a mythic legend of an unstoppable hero fighting for America and the freedom to wear outlandishly patriotic sequined outfits. There's also no Bill Conti score; they don't even really play Rocky's iconic "Gonna Fly Now" theme. So there's a lot working against this entry, but I don't care about any of that. I am more than happy to watch a movie where the Italian Stallion literally punches Communism in the face for justice.
And that's why they named it the Rocky Mountains.
If I had to pick one piece of evidence to validate ROCKY IV's inclusion in this column, I only need one word: ROBOT. At the beginning of the film, Rocky gives Paulie a six-foot tall android for his birthday and it is probably the worst decision in the entire series. (Allegedly, Stallone saw the robot at a party and decided to write it in to the movie.) The robot ruins every scene it's in, mainly because any time it randomly rolls in to a room, everyone has to stop whatever they're doing to and confusedly say, "What the hell is that thing?" Even when Rocky goes to Russia, every time it cuts back to his son watching the fight, that damn robot is in the background drawing attention to itself. And on a more disturbing note, Paulie—Rocky's loyal friend and cornerman—somehow reprograms the bot to transition from a male persona to that of a sensual female housewife. I didn't realize this when I watched this movie as a kid, but Paulie is definitely f*cking that robot.
This probably isn't a picture of a child giving a handy to a robot.
After defeating Mr. T, Rocky has settled in to a comfortable domestic life with Adrian and Rocky Jr. outside of the ring, until his ol' beach time romping pal Apollo Creed comes calling. Creed has agreed to fight a lab-grown Russian boxer named Ivan Drago in what is supposed to be a friendly exhibition match between the two Cold War countries, and needs Rocky in his corner. In what could either be considered a high or yet another low for the series, Creed enters the match to a musical performance by James Brown, dancing around in a sparkling Uncle Sam costume while being lowered in to the ring on a giant golden calf. (Subtlety be damned!) All this grandstanding only fuels Drago's hatred of American values, and he ends up literally punching Creed to death in the ring as Rocky looks on.
"You know what's American? Stew. Who's got a stew going?"
This might be a good time to mention all the unnecessary time wasting ROCKY IV does in its already short runtime. In addition to the aforementioned James Brown musical number, the film also features a recap of ROCKY III in the beginning, another five-minute multi-film flashback montage as Rocky drives in his car following Creed;s death, not one but TWO training montages, a performance of the Soviet National Anthem in its entirety, and then another montage during the final fight. There's probably less than an hour of actual movie in this movie, and sadly that includes multiple scenes of Paulie's gender-bending robot.
Rocky always blinks in photos.
Anyways, Rocky of course decides to stand up for 'Murica and challenges Drago to the ultimate showdown. In Russia. On Christmas Day. And to make it even more epic, Rocky eschews the conveniences of a modern training facility, instead deciding to camp out in the frozen Russian wilderness to prepare for the fight. And so begins two amazing training montages showcasing Russian science vs. American might. Drago lifts weights; Rocky lifts a pile of rocks in a barn. Drago uses a high-tech rowing machine; Rocky pulls Paulie on a sled in the snow. Drago knocks men down while sparring: Rocky knocks down entire trees in the forest. Drago runs on treadmill, while Rocky runs up an entire mountain, screaming his opponent's name when he reaches the peak. I just grew a new patch of hair on my chest just thinking about it.
The original concept for WRECK-IT DOLPH was not as successful.
All of that training leads to the most ridiculous fight in the entire series—just two behemoths beating each other relentlessly for 15 rounds. ROCKY IV rejects realism for complete fantasy in the title match, which is fitting given the international stakes. The amount of hits they take in the montage alone would leave both men brain-dead. In fact, Sylvester Stallone actually spent a week in the ICU with a swollen heart from just one real punch from Dolph Lundgren during filming. Speaking of, Lundgren is iconic as Drago, a man whose few words leave an impact. "I must break you." "If he dies, he dies." "I defeat all man. Soon I defeat real champion." So many great lines and Lundgren sells them all, in addition to his insane physical performance. Obviously, Rocky is going to win this fight in the end, but if there was one opponent that could defeat him, it's Ivan Drago.
Unfortunately, those enchiladas Drago ate for lunch also said, "I must break you."
In case all the subtlety was lost on you, ROCKY IV ends with the title character giving a heartfelt speech to the Russian people attempting to end the Cold War and unite both countries. "If I can change and you can change, EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE!" His power and heart are so mighty that even the character who was clearly supposed to be Mikhail Gorbachev stands up and cheers for Rocky. It's cheesy and ridiculous, like this movie, but dammit if it also isn't amazing.
Nothing says happy anniversary like domestic violence!
Some of the best dialogue from Drago, Paulie and even the robot. And of course, Rocky's big communism-ending speech at the end.
The best of the robot, Creed's embarrassing musical number, some amazing training montages and of course the final fight against Ivan Drago.
All the glistening pecs you can handle.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- The robot is present
- There's a montage, flashback or other time-wasting scene
- Drago has a dead look on his face
- Apollo calls Rocky "Stallion"
- A hit clearly doesn't connect during a fight
Double shot if:
- Drago speaks
Hold up! I didn't hear no bell! We've got one more round for you as Jesse Shade offers his take on ROCKY V in the Awfully Good Movies video column! How's that for a double header? Strap on your gloves and let's get it on!
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|Extra Tidbit:||Sylvester Stallone once said that following the events in this film, Ivan Drago went back to Russia disgraced, became an alcoholic, and killed himself. And they all lived happily ever after...|