Movie Marathon: ‘Rocky IV’


Of all the original Rocky movies this is the one I was most interested in seeing. It was the first one I was actually aware of as a kid and, as with many 80s kids, I was a fan of big, dumb action movies of the era. Dolph Lundgren was a big part of that scene.

Seeing it for myself as an adult…well…

Title: Rocky IV

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Dolph Lundgren, Bridget Nielsen

Review: As Rocky and Apollo consider that they’re ageing out of the sport they receive the news that the Soviet boxing champion is taking on American challengers for the first time. Wanting to put the arrogant Soviet athletes in their place, Apollo throws down the gauntlet with fatal consequences. Again seeking revenge Rocky becomes determined to beat the hulking rival.

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Review: First up, Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago is absolute boss. It’s little wonder that this was something of a star making turn for the guy, he is an incredibly powerful presence throughout the film in spite of only having seven words of dialogue. He even has the best comedic moment in the film, but I’ll come to that later.

Stallone, again taking the lead, director and writer roles, seems to have indulged in…something. It’s not quite clear what the tone is supposed to be because the movie starts with Rocky giving Paulie a…robot. This movie has a whacky robot sidekick who Paulie winds up in a pseudo-romantic relationship with.

WHY THE LIVING BOLLOCKS DOES THIS MOVIE HAVE A ROBOT. The series started life with a true-to-life underdog that the audience could relate to and now Rocky is living in a mansion and casually buying people robots.

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So Rocky and Apollo are living the good life in their respective mansions and some arrogant Cold War Soviets come marching in America to challenge the size of the USA’s testicles. Wanting to prove that the USA does in fact have hefty testicles, Apollo challenges him to a fight, which James Brown performs at for some reason. The opening to this fight is the most entertaining part of the series, it’s a garish, ghoulish nightmare of American excess and Doplh Lundgren standing in the middle of it looking confused just tickled me.

Anyway, Apollo Creed is killed in the ring by an uncaring and almost inhuman Drago, something that seems to delight his wide Ludmilla. The death of Apollo is cheesy and overblown and loses it’s emotional impact as a result. This is followed by a power ballad fuelled montage where Rocky reflects on the previous three films and it goes for AGES. Literally about five minutes of clips from other movies (which I had watched within the past 48 hours). Rocky declares that he’s going to challenge Drago with no money or titles involved just to prove a point and we get into another power ballad montage.

After this we get another power ballad montage, then another and then the final fight, most of which is shown in a power ballad montage. This is downright lazy film-making and boring to watch.

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Rocky and his…trainer? I don’t know who these Mickey/Apollo stand ins are…arrive in the USSR and gets into his power ballad montage of training. We cross cut between Drago working hard in a high-tech training facility wear his capabilities are tested and recorded by computers. Rocky does the much more impressive training of…chopping wood, moving rocks and pretending to be a huskie.

Right – it’s time to talk about the fact that Rocky really never does any boxing training. It’s never made clear how all this is going to improve Rocky’s ability to box. Perhaps it’s some kind of Mr. Miyagi situation but there’s never any pay off to any of it. There’s absolutely no reason to think that chopping wood is going to make him a better boxer than Drago and his elite training facility.

Eventually Rocky faces Drago in the ring and the parts we get to see between the split screen and montage nonsense is downright brutal to watch. Lundgren is a true locomotion of power and it’s surprising that Rocky comes out on top. The guy is a serious tank. We do like the weirdly sinister arrival of Drago, with banners and what not, considering that it’s subdued compared to Apollo’s silliness.

Then after Rocky wins he gives a speech that brings an end to the Cold War. The commentator actually says at one point “suddenly Moscow is pro-Rocky!”

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With the fantastic rival they’ve got lined up there’s no reason why this movie couldn’t work, but the directing is lazy and the end message so trite and unbelievable that it’s hard not to laugh at it. Even Apollo Creed’s death feels lacklustre as it serves the same basic narrative function as Mickey’s death. This recycling of old plot points is boring.

Shit, I just realised that I haven’t Adrian once in the past two reviews. She’s been downgraded to little more than a background character by this point. Shame.

Rating: THREE out of TEN

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