As a kid, I saw all the sequels to ROCKY before the original. I loved them. Older and wiser now, I still have affection for their grand ridiculousness but recognize the true quality of the first. Each sequel copies the original’s formula but raises the stakes with the opponent and drops the unique, although improbable, realism of the first. ROCKY is a masterfully quiet film that reigns champ for most people because it proves even the biggest underdog has a chance.
In the back streets of Philadelphia, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a simple man who loves to box but is fighting to keep enough money to stay afloat. Living in a poor rundown studio apartment, he spends his non-boxing free time talking to the quiet shy girl, Adrian (Talia Shire) who works at the pet shop. An opportunity arises where the current Heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is going to give some no name boxer a shot at the title for a publicity stunt. The Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa is the name they choose, thus giving our hero the chance of a lifetime.
Stallone gets a bad rep for his easy and repeated formulas, but I can’t say enough about how brilliantly he wrote and performed the character Rocky Balboa. What a fantastic name by the way. Say it again. Rocky Balboa. It just carries so much strength and humility while rolling right off the lips. Working as a goon collecting money from those who owe, his sympathetic heart never allows him to actually break any bones. He is a good guy down to the core, just a little too dense to know any better at times. In one of the most touching scenes he passively admits that it hurts when people take cheap shots at his intelligence. We like this guy, we pity this guy and we want things to work out for this guy the best they possibly can.
The pacing of the film is surprisingly sneaky. I mean this as a great compliment because ROCKY is known as a boxing film but the only actually boxing that takes place is a quick amateur fight as the opening credits role then again at the end of the film with the first two rounds then the last two rounds. The rest of the film is filled with getting to know his character, his love story with Adrian and his training montage with “Eat lightning and crap thunder” Mickey (Burgess Meredith). But it was so cleverly woven that I was hanging onto every scene. This is another great lesson to all filmmakers on how the importance of building a character.
Revisiting the picture from 1976, the flaws are more apparent. The pulled acting punches are more obvious and the constant connections to the face are a little absurd. The fight would have been called for the safety of Apollo and Rocky long before Round 12. Nonetheless, the film is a favorite because the story reaches everyone who roots for the underdog and believes anything is possible. With the help of an inspirational soundtrack from Bill Conti, it teaches that never giving up and simply going the distance can be a victory.
With ten Academy Award Nominations including Actor, Actress and two Supporting noms for Burt Young and Burgess Meredith, Best Sound, Song and Original Screenplay, ROCKY took home the trophies for Best Editing, Best Director and the big one Best Picture. Also landing number 78 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list, ROCKY is obviously a highly regarded movie in the film industry. Easily one of if not the most influential sports film of all time, ROCKY the film and character possess that one characteristic that is so hard to find…heart.
Video: (1.85:1 Widescreen) This is definitely not the best transfer I’ve seen. The opening scene is terribly grainy. It does smooth out as the film moves on but I was disappointed about the care that went into it.
Audio: (DTS Surround Sound) The sound was decent. The fight scene was a little loud compared to the rest of the film but that is to be expected.
While it comes with a short book highlighting the making process and awards of the film, the Blu-ray is one of the worst I’ve seen. Considering the prestige in which ROCKY is held coupled with the fact the DVD has several interesting features, my suggestion is to save your money on this Blu-ray.