- Movie Rating -

Rocky III (1982)

| May 28, 1982

Rocky III is about as subtle as a Sherman Tank, and that’s a giant letdown given what preceded it.  Whatever complexity, humanity and warmth existed in the last two pictures is nowhere to be found here.  Sylvester Stallone, as writer, director and star throws out the very human world that in which we first met Rocky Balboa and now years have passed, Rocky is a champion and success seems to have withered away his very specific personality.  What is left is a guy with a bruised ego and nothing left to fill it with.  This is a meat and potatoes action picture, but it is also a meat and potatoes drama.  It offers no new dimensions to Rocky and Adrian nor to their love story.  It isn’t as special.

And yet . . . and yet, I was wildly entertained by this movie.  The complexities are gone, the plot is dumbed down and the characters are half-dimensional but still at the level of a pure entertainment the movie gets the job done.

Times are good for Rocky as the movie opens.  He has become a celebrity as big as any movie star.  A very robust opening montage shows his life of winning championship after championship and getting luxury after luxury.  He’s on magazine covers, talk shows, American Express commercials, even The Muppet Show.  He has a beautiful family, a beautiful home, and still hanging around somewhere is Paulie (Burt Young, again).  He hasn’t changed at all.

But it is not all sunshine and roses.  Unbeknownst to the Stallion, his rise to the top has been manufactured.  Mickey (Burgess Meredith, again) has been putting him up against easy tomato can fighters in an effort to keep his spirits high and his medical bills low.  It’s what smart managers do, you see, but in Mickey’s case it is a fatherly tactic, done out of love.

But one person smells a rat, the toughest fighter in the land; a loud-mouthed, strangely-dressed brute named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) whose mouth seems to be as violent as his fists.  He hates Rocky, hates his easy rise to fame, hates his life of luxury.  He calls Rocky out I public, insults his legacy and even takes an opportunity to makes a pass at Adrian (for Rocky, that’s the limit).  I’ve never seen such an angry performance.  Seriously, Mr. T’s every line, every motion, every breath in this movie is fully-loaded with threats, violence, and rage.  He’s a walking, talking, brutalizing cliché.

I might have thought this to be the film’s downfall, but in the wake of Rocky’s realization that his whole career since SuperFight II was a lie, his pride can’t resist the call of Clubber the Killing Machine.  What happens is dramatically effective.  Rocky has his pride beaten just as much as his face and has to work hard to get it back.  Only this time he can’t rely on Mickey and has to take advice from . . . well, I won’t give it away.

Let’s just say that Rocky’s new ally is kind of awesome and the second half of the movie, with Rocky getting his pride back does get your pulse going.  Of course, I’ll say that it isn’t as interesting his domestic life in the first film, with his turtles Cuff and Link nor as interesting as his bashful courtship of Adrian, but the movie has a simplistic style, an energy and a likable charm all its own.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.