Release Date(s)2006 (March 20, 2007)
The idea of Sylvester Stallone returning to his Rocky character for a sixth time certainly invoked considerable eye-rolling from yours truly, but the results are surprisingly effective and provide a satisfying conclusion to the saga (assuming the film’s box-office success doesn’t make Stallone change his mind). In Rocky Balboa, a Rocky preoccupied with the memory of his now-deceased wife Adrian, tries to find meaning in his current life, one focused on running a restaurant and also trying to connect with his grown son. The only key link to his early past still around is the ever-present Paulie. The feeling that there is unfinished business as far is boxing is concerned leads Rocky to regain his boxing license. Meanwhile, the heavyweight boxing champion suffers from poor public acceptance because of a series of one-sided fights and his handlers see an exhibition match with Rocky as a way to massage the champ’s tarnished image as well as put suggestions to rest that a fight between the two in their prime would have resulted in a victory by Rocky.
The film has very much the thoughtful tone of the original Rocky film and eschews much of the over-the-top ring machismo of the original’s other four sequels. Despite some lapses in its development of the relationships between Rocky and both his own son and that of a woman whom he befriends, the film’s story arc is well-handled and given a very satisfactory conclusion in its staging of the exhibition match between Rocky and the current champ. The ending feels right in terms of both this particular film (compare it to the alternate ending presented as an extra on the disc) and the Rocky series as a whole, thus imparting a measure of credibility that the film as a stand-alone title might not otherwise have. Despite what one may feel about Stallone’s acting abilities (whose limited nature have resulted in a rather lean period for the actor of late), his embodiment of Rocky has always been effective and his work here is superior within that context. Superior too is the script, which Stallone wrote as well as directed. The result is a film with numerous quietly truthful scenes that are characterized by warmth and subtlety as well as conveying the sense of complex real-life characters.
The BD presentation of the film is superior. Image detail is excellent virtually throughout, whether interior or exterior. The disc presents a nice contrast between the more subdued but accurate colours of the Philadelphia scenes and the glitzy, dynamic ones of the Las Vegas fight scenes. But most striking of all is the stunningly sharp and vivid red of the roses that Rocky leaves on Adrian’s grave marker. The uncompressed PCM sound mix is equally effective. It is forceful and enveloping when it needs to be in the fight sequences, but it is also restrained yet atmospheric in many of the Philadelphia ones. Dialogue is crisp and clear for the most part, struggling only with a few of Rocky’s mumbled utterances. The disc’s extras are a nice mix including a very good audio commentary by Stallone; several featurettes on the general making-of the film as well as a couple of its specific components (the computerized fight scene and the Las Vegas fight sequences); a generous selection of deleted scenes, and an alternate ending. Recommended.
- Barrie Maxwell