Rocky IV (1985)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Rocky IV</strong> (1985)

(On Blu Ray, September 2018) If the first three Rocky movies have an admirable consistency to them (sure, the first one is considerably more realistic, but the second and third volumes do provide satisfaction to viewers), the same absolutely cannot be said about Rocky IV, which jumps all sorts of sharks to include a robot assistant and have Rocky win the Cold War in order to avenge the death of a friend. Whew. How did we get here? It’s not as if the film is terrible … it’s that it’s got those weird things to it that make it easier to dismiss. Picking up once again by repeating the last few minutes of the previous film, Rocky IV has a dumb birthday interlude (introducing the robot!) before things get underway, as a Soviet boxer comes to compete with American heavyweights and Apollo Creed answers the call out of sheer boredom. Things don’t go well, and Rocky suddenly thirsts for revenge, travelling all the way to the USSR to teach the communist empire a lesson. The classic montage scenes contrasting the honest American way and the cheating Soviet one is a classic (I recall seeing it in class in the 1990s because my classmates used it to illustrate some dubious high-schooler thesis on dehumanization) even though, like much of the film, it doesn’t deal in subtleties. All the Americans are virtuous (although they obviously can’t tolerate a bit of pushback during press interviews), while all the Soviets are duplicitous. So it goes, until a final inarticulate speech in which Rocky promotes world peace and, I suppose, hastens the fall of the USSR. Whew. As an episode of the Rocky series, it does plant seeds that eventually become important in the excellent Creed. As a standalone, though, it has visibly aged faster than most other entries until then, and it doesn’t quite follow from previous episodes in the way that, say, Rocky III did. The plot is formulaic to the point of being laughable, with the training montage taking the place where a second act would go. It’s still reasonably entertaining (Sylvester Stallone does sport a really cool beard at the end of his rural training) and the series regulars all have a moment or two to shine. Still, this is where the series breaks form—and as Rocky V showed, the fallow period was a long one.

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