Friday, March 16, 2007

Rocky Balboa

In Christianity the gift of resurrection comes only to the deserving. Unfortunately, in Hollywood, the gods that decree resurrection are not so discriminating, as is the case with the film Rocky Balboa.

Raised back from film heaven, Rocky Balboa sees Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) now a widower and a restaurant owner, come out of retirement, and battle, of all people, the current undisputed heavy weight champion Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Antonio Carver).

In fairness, Rocky did not start out aiming at the reigning champ. It starts with him spending his time at the cemetery grieving the death of Adrian (Talia Shire), his wife. He also spends time visiting his old hang-outs reminiscing the good old times; visiting his estranged son’s office; and managing his restaurant.

Middle aged and retired from boxing his mind drifts on the questions of ‘why’ or more importantly ‘what next’. His wife is dead, and his son keeping a distance and struggling to make it out of Rocky’s shadow. Lost, grieving, and alone, I felt for the character. At some point, we all could be asking ‘what next’. Then the movie takes a turn for the unbelievable when Rocky decides to scratch his itch for boxing one last time. Didn’t he have a head injury that forced him into retirement in Rocky V; how the hell did the boxing commission give him a clean bill of health in this film!

Even without the injuries, the match-up of the current heavyweight and an aging Rocky is what the film hard to swallow. Real life boxing legend Muhammad Ali tried his best, in the late 70s, to stay on top even when he was clearly on the decline. Though he had a few highpoints, Ali was a far shadow of his former self. It was a sorry sight of someone who has had a big impact in boxing. Unfortunately for the film, the heavyweight match-up is its dramatic focal point; and having lost its credibility the entire movie sinks.

Stallone, who, like the first Rocky, wrote and directed Rocky Balboa should have followed the advice Rocky gave to his son: “…keep moving forward.” Rocky himself should have kept moving forward, and not find the resolution from a past career.

What is with Stallone anyway that he seems to be doing films that made him a star again. He is reportedly set to star in a 4th Rambo film. Like the film Rocky, Rambo had also helped catapult Stallone’s career.

The movie’s tagline, “It ain't over 'til it's over,” is answered by the quality of this film. The plot itself like the character cannot stand on its own, relying heavily on nostalgia left by the last 5 movies. Rocky Balboa has not moved forward, has not brought a fresh look, only backwards. It is not a new chapter in Rocky’s life, more of a guy who can’t move on.

“It ain't over 'til it's over,” the movie’s tagline, is an admirable trait. We should never really give up, and what better way to put that message than the underdog Rocky. However, it also could have been done in a better way. The emphasis should have been that while fighting to the end is a good trait, one should also have the flexibility to change to the challenges life brings.

It is really over for this film. If the movie god’s have not commanded it, then the I am confident the good taste of all movie lovers will make sure that this movie will be down for the count.