- Movie Rating -

Rocky IV (1985)

| November 29, 1985

Rocky IV is everything that I feared that this series would become.  Cold, lifeless, predictable, bland and lazy.  It’s also heartbreaking when you remember the warmth and humanity that Stallone gave to the earlier films.  I don’t know, exactly, what the purpose was here, but whatever it is it really has nothing to do with the characters that we have grown to love.  You could recast this movie with different actors and you’d still have the same result.

The movie is oddly short at just 91 minutes.  It has a story that can be tied up in half an hour, which explains the four MTV-style montages that run endlessly every time a dramatic height needs to be reached.  It doesn’t have a narrative but rather beats that need to be hit.  Like the James Bond series, it has the high points to reach that the audience expects:

• Rocky is happy in his life
• There’s a challenge
• There’s a defeat
• Rocky gets depressed.
• He decides to accept the challenge.
• Adrian objects.
• Rocky trains.
• There’s a fight that nearly ends in death.
• There’s talk of stopping the fight.
• Rocky wins.

You can set your watch to the formula.

The story this time really has nothing to do with the previous three films.  It involves an attempt by The Soviet Union to enter the sport of boxing which, because of difficulties between the superpowers, has never been allowed.  Their champion is a silent hulk right out of a video game.  He is Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a 6-foot 4 statue of a man whose body has been pumped so full of experimental steroids that he has become less a boxer and closer to The Terminator.  Lundgren has less then ten words through the whole movie

Meanwhile Rocky and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers, again) are happy in their lives.  Rich beyond words and with a friendship that will never die (right?)  Apollo gets the itch to get back in the ring after a five-year absence and he sees a charity match with Drago is just the ticket.

Well, not to give it away, but Apollo loses.  Actually, the fight with Drago is pretty brutal after Apollo makes a ridiculous entrance into the arena decked in red, white and blue in front of what appears to be fire-breathing goats.  He is surrounded by dancing girls, fireworks and James Brown singing “Living in America.”  It makes the Americans look like a bunch of bombastic jerks.

Anyway, Apollo loses and true to the old cop-buddy formula, Rocky has to step up and avenge his beloved partner.  That means we get the montage of Rocky being sad which is followed by his determination to train for the fight, which is followed by the inevitable argument with Adrian over whether he should accept the challenge.  Then we get the inevitable training montage, this time in the snows of Russia and then the big fight.

The final fight, which takes place in The Soviet Union on Christmas Day, is ridiculous beyond words.  Lundgren is three feet taller than Stallone which means that Stallone has to jump up to hit his opponent in the face.  The fight is yet another long montage which robs us of the blood, sweat and tears of the earlier fights in the series – this one feels like a cheat.  Then, unbelievably, the crowd stops cheering for Drago and starts cheering for Rocky!  The ending, in which Rocky makes a half-assed speech apparently brings an end to the Cold War.  I think he’s over-inflating himself just a bit.  But for this movie it is par for the course.

Before I wrap this review up, there is one issue that I must address.  There is a robot in this movie.  Yes, a robot.  Rocky gives his alcoholic brother-in-law Pauly a robot with artificial intelligence for his birthday.  It serves drinks, responds to normal speech, makes conversation and is apparently left to babysit Rocky and Adrian’s son while they are in Russia.  I wish I could say that this robot was only in one scene, but no, it’s in six or seven scenes and by the end, I think, Pauly is having a romantic relationship with it.  From this I now have to contend that the beauty and the passion of the original Rocky now has this C3PO knock-off in its continuity.  I’m going to go cry now.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama