Friday, 23 November 2007

DVD: Rocky Balboa

Lowdown: Rocky's back from retirement where he should have stayed.
The Rocky films represent childhood memories. Funny memories of times gone by when we could have enjoyed films as bad as Rocky 3, where the eye of the tiger (what a hit song that was!) fights it out with B. A. Burekas. Or Rocky 4, where the communist slime is shown who the superior species on this planet is. However, as bad as 3 & 4 were, they were so bad they were funny; #5, on the other hand, was pathetically bad.
And now comes #6 and in order for it to appear better Sylvester Stallone has decided to dump the numbering altogether and go for a more classy act with the name. The film, however, still retains the original qualities of the "better" sequels: stupid, predictable films.
This time around Rocky is long past retirement, a small time restaurant operator who is happy with his life but is captivated with memories of a better past. We know the past wasn't better, it was pretty bad - with Drago and such - but Stallone is obviously in such a bad position, career wise, that he has to live in a past that never existed to feel good with himself. And make no mistake about it, Stallone thinks that he and Rocky are the same.
Back to the film, and the current boxing champion is so good he's unpopular with the crowds because he wins too easily. However, a computer TV simulation shows that Rocky will beat him, which sparks the idea of a match between the two. Thus we have an excuse for Rocky to go back to the ring, for Stallone to produce another film in the series, and for the film to re-emphasize its point about past values vs. present trash.
On paper, the plot may sound interesting. On screen, however, RB is a very boring film - quite an achievement with only 97 minutes of length. The main problem is with the first two thirds of the film, which are basically an emotional account; only that Rocky is so shallow and so dumb, and the film resorts to sophisticated artistic shots that look so out of place, that you don't know whether to laugh or fall asleep. Then come the fight scenes and they bring nothing new along: it's more of the same from the previous films and it's too short and predictable to dent the film already very well imposed aura of boredom.
The film does end in a nice way (spoiler alert!): The end is similar to the end of Rocky 1, the only good film of the series. It's sort of a circle being closed, only that the DVD offers an alternative ending where Rocky actually wins. To me, this shows the general lack of direction that led to RB being such a boring film.
Corniest scene: The South Park guys knew what they were singing about with their song "Even Rocky Had a Montage" (taken from their film Team America). The montage when Rocky starts to practice for the fight, repeated in all Rocky films, has to be the biggest joke the film has to offer.
Picture quality: Very good, although as stated - the artistic look actually deprives the film.
Sound quality: For an hour or so you get sound that is obviously well designed but very subdued. And then the fight is declared, and suddenly the trumpets of the Rocky theme blow on all cylinders. What a magnificent theme it is, especially when it is so well rendered! It sounded so good I still keep having it playing in my head. During the fight sound takes center stage, but it's the music that turns you on.
Overall: This film is stuck in a past that never existed and its theme music is not enough to resurrect it. 2 out of 5 stars.

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