Rocky (1976)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Rocky</strong> (1976)

(On Blu Ray, September 2018) Intriguingly enough, Rocky is one of those movies that you think you’ve seen even if you haven’t: It was a massive success, earning both an Oscar and great box-office returns. It made Sylvester Stallone an icon, complete with iconic visuals (arms raised over Philadelphia) and sounds (“ADRIAN!”) It spawned a series of sequels still going forty years later, and is often used as shorthand description of just about every underdog sports drama out there. I may have seen Rocky as a kid, but not, to my recollection, as an adult. Remedying to that, I was struck by how (contrarily to many other movies so popular that you think you’ve seen them even if you haven’t) Rocky is darker than expected yet almost exactly what it says it is. It follows a declining not-too-bright boxer as he’s given a second chance, pursues a girl and dislikes his job as a loan-shark “collection agent.” Stallone is at his Stalloniest as Rocky Balboa, playing a simple character with some nobility. If it works, it’s because Rocky’s sports aspect takes a visible back seat to the character-driven drama: even the premise of a champ giving a chance to an unknown is purely arbitrary, albeit cloaked in good work from Carl Weathers. Talia Shire is cute enough as Adrian, with one good scene toward the end of the film being enough to elevate her role above being simply the romantic interest. Some of director John G. Avildsen’s visual touches are interesting—while most commentary about the film’s visuals focus on the “Rocky Steps” training montage, I was more impressed by a quiet static neighborhood shot showing Rocky hiring his manager, with a train passing in the background as a flourish. Rocky is not subtle, and it’s not sophisticated, but (much like its eponymous character), it’s tough and can absorb a lot of punishment. It holds up, and not just for those who like boxing.

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