My Favorite Movies #63 – Rocky IV

Rocky IV - Poster.jpgRocky IV

1985

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Netflix says… Rocky must come out of retirement to battle a gargantuan Soviet fighter named Drago, who brutally punished Rocky’s friend and ex-rival, Apollo Creed. Seeking revenge in the name of his fallen comrade and his country, Rocky fights Drago in Moscow.

  • Okay, for those of you not familiar with this particular franchise (or with Roman numerals), Rocky IV is the fourth film in a series that now boasts eight entries, with Creed carrying on the legacy.
  • As this is the only Rocky movie to make my Top 100 list, here’s what you need to know from previous movies…
  • Rocky: Apollo Creed, the reigning heavyweight champion is looking for a gimmick for his next fight and decides to give an unknown boxer a shot at the title. Rocky Balboa is the guy that gets chosen. Rocky’s goal is not to win, but to go the distance – a full 15 rounds of fighting without being knocked out, forcing a decision for the winner. In a split decision, Apollo is declared champion once more and he tells Rocky that there will be no rematch. Along the way, Rocky meets and falls in love with Adrian. The movie is just as much a love story as it is a boxing movie.
  • Rocky II: Yeah, there’s a rematch. Rocky’s getting famous for being the guy who forced a decision and went the distance against the heavyweight champion of the world. And a lot of Apollo’s critics feel that he got off easy with a win by decision. Rocky and Adrian get married and have a son together. This time, Rocky’s goal is to beat Apollo. And he does.
  • Rocky III: This time, Rocky’s beyond famous and wealthy thanks to his new status as champ. But Mickey, his long time trainer and mentor has been arranging fights that are easy so that Rocky can stay on top. Clubber Lang (Mr. T) comes along demanding a shot a the title. Rocky loses the fight quickly. Mickey has a heart attack and dies. Then Apollo offers to train Rocky, telling him he lost because he no longer had the “eye of the tiger” that he had when he first took his shot at the title. They become friends. Rocky faces Lang again and destroys him. There is no going the distance this time around.
  • Which brings us to where we are now. The film that ended the Cold War.
  • I know, those “brief” synopses were longer than I intended them to be. But I want to make sure you understand why our hero has to face down communism.
  • This movie is about as 80s as you can get. Lots of montages. Heavily synthesized music. And there’s even a life-size robot.
  • Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) comes to the U.S. from the U.S.S.R. to show off what his people believe is Russian athletic superiority.
  • They want to set up an exhibition fight with Rocky, America’s famous world champion.
  • But Apollo wants a crack at the Russian.
  • The media meets with Drago and his team during his high tech training session.
  • There’s a question about the use of steroids, but they deny this, claiming that Ivan is naturally trained.
  • Apollo meets with Rocky to discuss the possibility of going after Drago. Apollo feels like he’s got something to prove.
  • The whole thing becomes a circus. The Soviet team wants Rocky, not Apollo, saying Creed is over the hill and not worth their time.
  • But this is what they go with. Creed comes in with a musical number led by James Brown to pad the run time.
  • We interrupt this “Living in America” music video for a boxing match.
  • The exhibition fight becomes all too real when only a few heavy punches from Drago end Apollo’s life.
  • Drago is pretty cold after the fight. “If he dies, he dies.”
  • Rocky could have thrown in the towel, but between rounds, Apollo told him not to stop the fight for anything.
  • But how many people flat out blame Rocky for Apollo’s death?
  • He blames himself, but that’s all we really see.
  • Rocky now agrees to fight Drago on Christmas day in Moscow. Because revenge.
  • Adrian doesn’t want Rocky to fight, afraid for his life.
  • Now it’s time for our first real montage to pad run time, set to Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out.”
  • Rocky expresses his grief by driving in his Lamborghini and flashing back to all the good times with Apollo during Rocky III.
  • Rocky, Paulie, and Duke arrive in Russia and are taken to a snow-covered farm where they’ll stay and train for the coming fight with Drago.
  • The funniest scene in Russia might be when Paulie falls in the snow because he doesn’t realize how deep it is.
  • It’s also pretty satisfying when Duke beats one of the KGB guys at chess.
  • And it wouldn’t be a sports movie from the 80s if we didn’t have a training montage to pad the run time.
  • This one is all instrumental.
  • We get to see the difference between Rocky’s training and Drago’s.
  • Drago is using all the latest technology. Rocky is running through the snow, helping pick up an overturned sleigh, sawing logs, and moving piles of boulders from one place to another and back again.
  • We interrupt this training montage for Adrian’s arrival in Russia.
  • Aww… She does care and isn’t mad that Rocky is fighting.
  • Training montage, part two. This time, it’s a music video for “Hearts on Fire” to pad the run time.
  • This time, we see Drago getting a shot of something. I can only assume that the claim that he’s naturally trained earlier in the movie is a lie and that he is, in fact, using steroids.
  • The montage ends with Rocky at the top of a mountain screaming Drago’s name.
  • I guess something had to replace the steps in Philly.
  • Oh, it’s also pretty awesome when Rocky manages to outrun his KGB escort and they crash their car.
  • Now we get to the fight. Which is sort of another montage in and of itself.
  • The crowd hates Rocky, much like the American crowd hated Drago.
  • Gorbachev is overseeing this fight. Must be pretty important.
  • Before it’s over, the crowd is cheering for Rocky and Drago’s manager (?) is yelling at him that he’s embarrassing his country.
  • Drago responds by yelling at Gorbachev that he fights for himself!
  • In the last round, Rocky scores the knockout, defeating the undefeatable Russian warrior.
  • Rocky gives a touching speech about how people can change.
  • And that, kids, is how Rocky Balboa single-handedly defeated communism.
  • I mean, is it a coincidence that the Berlin Wall fell only a few years later? I don’t think so.
  • You know, if you take out all the montages and boxing scenes, you might have about 15 minutes of actual story.
  • But I don’t care. I love this movie.

Next week we’ll jump up to the 90s and check out The Usual Suspects.

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #63 – Rocky IV

  1. So it was just a year ago when I watched my first Rocky movie. It was because the guy I was rapidly falling for loved them so it was no big deal to watch them. We actually watched this one “together” (me in Toronto, him in Philly, but at the same time sending comments through whatsapp) it was his fav out of the series and it quickly became mine too. The moment Adrian shows up in Russia, I lost it. Omg my heart!! And Paulie falling into snow banks? Seriously it was great! It had everything! I still haven’t seen the new creed movie, but I’m not sure I’ll be watching it any time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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