Review- Rocky IV (1985)

Review- Rocky IV (1985)

I still remember my friend Ollie coming into the school I attended and telling me at breakneck speed that he had seen Rocky IV the day before at the local cinema, everything that happened in it and how great it was. Word of mouth is the best kind of ‘hype’ for a movie. ‘I need to see this film!’ I thought and so Rocky IV was the first Rocky film I saw at the cinema (the other three had been viewed on home video).


It had been years since I had last seen this film, so a rewatch was well overdue.

Ivan Drago is a Russian boxer who arrives in the US with his team in tow, one of which is his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), a swimmer in her native Russia. In the demonstrations of his strength, it is suggested that this is down to Drago being Russian and superior because of this. Apollo Creed sees this and decides to take on Drago. What could go wrong?


Theres so much to love about Rocky IV- Creed’s entrance involving James Brown and showgirls a-plenty before his exhibition match with Drago (this was recreated years later by real-life boxer Tyson Fury), the soundtrack that spawned even more iconic songs (Living In America, Burning Heart), the sequences showing Drago’s strength (loving the 80’s graphics that show his punching power), the training scenes which have Drago embracing the latest technology whilst Rocky uses more primitive methods, the pop video montage whilst shows Rocky driving along whilst remembering events from the first three films many of them involving his friend Creed…

The robot is irritating as is Rocky’s son but these are minor points. In Stallone’s Director’s Cut, the robot would disappear (hooray) amongst other alterations.

This is Cold War Rocky with a huge showdown being not just Rocky vs Drago but America vs Russia. And it’s fantastic because of this angle. A fourth film in any other franchise may show signs of fatigue and repetition but Rocky IV shows the exact opposite. It feels fresh, vital and for a lot of fans of the series, it is the best entry.

RockyIVBannerCold War

4 stars out of 5


Review- Rocky III (1982)

Review- Rocky III (1982)

The plot outline for this latest instalment in the Rocky franchise comes from the film’s novelization-

‘Three years have passed since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, years of enjoying easy fights and a happy home life with Adrian.

But now a vicious, young fighter named Clubber Lang, jealous of Rocky’s success has challenged him to a bout.

Can our out-of-shape hero beat this young upstart? Rocky’s got the guts, the heart, and the courage. And if that’s not enough, he’s getting help – from none other than Apollo Creed himself!

Rocky III, the legend continues…’


I love the third instalments of franchises. I remember the trend in cinemas when I was growing up of the triple-bill. It was like the ultimate reward for fans of franchises that had made it to a third film. Star Wars, The Omen and Rocky all had triple bills. All of those glorious hours in the cinema.


Third instalments of franchises in the 80s also seemed to involve the filmmaker incorporating other pop culture into their films to show they have their fingers on the pulse. Superman III had Atari, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors weaved in some Dungeons and Dragons into its storyline, Friday the 13th Part 3 utilised 3D as its gimmick. And what does Rocky III use? Wrestling! Too cool. The sequence in which Rocky takes on wrestler Thunderlips (whoever came up with that name is a genius. I instantly thought of L7’s cameo in John Waters’ Serial Mom in which they were called Camel Lips) played by wrestling legend Hulk Hogan is one of the most mental sequences I’ve ever seen. I loved it. I also love the idea of snooty film critics such as Pauline Kael, Janet Maslin and Siskel and Ebert having to watch something as ‘low-brow’ (i.e. popular) as a wrestling bout.

The casting of a then unknown Mr T as Clubber Lang was also a stroke of genius. I love that the film’s casting agents even visited some of the worst prisons in America in their search for an intimidating enough opponent for Balboa in this instalment before coming across the future A-Team star. Mr T gives a great performance and has some amazing one-liners. When asks what his prediction is for his fight with Balboa, he replies ‘PAIN!’

Of course, tragedy has to strike within a Rocky sequel. This time it’s the turn of Mickey, Rocky’s trainer who goes to the great gym in the sky. Burgess Meredith’s performance in all of the first three Rocky films was amazing, especially when you see him in other movies and TV series. I watched Magic recently and his turn as the wealthy movie agent Ben Greene was amazing and completely different to his turn as Mickey here. Before Mickey shuffles off this mortal coil, he offers Rocky some advice. He states that the biggest threat to a fighter’s hunger to win is when he becomes ‘civilised’. We see this during some earlier sequences with Rocky advertising products such as American Express cards (I take it these ads went better than the ones we saw him attempting in Rocky II) and appearing on The Muppet Show (surely any celebrities high point). Rocky, Adrian and their son now live in a mansion, have staff and Rocky now dresses more like someone who works on Wall Street than the regular Joe he was in the earlier films.

I love that none other than Apollo Creed replaces Mickey as Rocky’s trainer with the aim of trying to make him hungry again. The training sequences (another staple of the Rocky franchise which works so well) show Rocky to be lacklustre at first but then locate the passion and desire to win again. These sequences are something else as we see Apollo wearing a crop top for one of these scenes and later get to see Rocky wearing not just a crop top but a headband (!) to boot. When Rocky has relocated his killer instinct there are also scenes of both characters frolicking in the sea together. Such joyous scenes of male bonding and gay abandon. I wonder if the pair planned a weekend in Fire Island after Rock won his second fight and took back the title.

Rocky III is a fantastic film and shows that the franchise was still full of vitality, brilliant ideas and far from becoming tired or listless. I was going to say that Rocky III might be my favourite film in the franchise but I know the entry that is coming next. Rocky IV was the first Rocky film I got to see in a cinema rather than on video and is one hell of a movie. Review coming soon.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Rocky 2 (1979)

Review- Rocky 2 (1979)

I love it when sequels include the ending of the previous film as a recap for the audience. It’s very considerate.

I had forgotten nearly all of what happened in this film but it all came flooding back as I started to watch it. The last time I watched Rocky 2 was on VHS in the early/mid-80s.


Rocky goes from fighting Apollo Creed to trying to become a star of commercials rather than stepping back into the ring but this doesn’t work out (completely due to the dickhead director rather than because of our Italian hero). He then decides to try and get an office job. When this fails he then tries to get any kind of job. He eventually finds employment in a slaughterhouse. As they are so strapped for money, Adrienne decides to go back to her pet shop job part-time even though she now has a bun in the oven. Rocky then decides to a rematch against Creed but Adrienne disapproves. She then overworks herself in her job which then brings on premature labour. Whilst she gives birth and the baby is fine, she slips into a coma through complications to do with her working when she should have been relaxing.

We see that Rocky’s training for the rematch is very sloppy before Adrienne’s hospitalisation. The scenes in which Rocky sits by his wife’s side as she lay in her coma are gorgeous. I also love that when she awakens from her coma she says she wants Rocky to win in his rematch against Apollo. This sparks scenes of Rocky’s training for said match with him now giving 110% and with the famous Rocky theme playing. These scenes are genuinely uplifting as the same kind of montages are repeated from the original with Rocky as a kind of Everyman who has come from nothing but worked hard to get to his lofty heights- the embodiment of The American Dream. Under anyone else’s direction these sequences would be as corny as hell but under Stallone’s direction (yes Sly wrote and directed this film) they work beautifully.


Again, uniformly brilliant performances as the beautifully drawn characters are again brought to life by their respective players. Again, Joe Spinell is in this film and again, I smiled when I saw his name in the opening credits. That’s enough of me using the word ‘again’.

Stallone as Rocky is such a great performance with him being just as lovable, full of heart and tenacity as he was in the original. But, Burgess Meredith has more airtime in this film and he turns in a terrific performance as the gnarled old boxing trainer Mickey who has a huge part in Rocky getting his head together and getting back in the ring to win.


This isn’t a sequel that is better than its original film but that’s only because the first Rocky was so good. Rather, this is a sequel on a par with the original. Rocky wasn’t just a fluke. Rocky 2 became one of the three highest-grossing films of 1979 and was also critically acclaimed. And deservedly so.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Rocky (1976)

Review- Rocky (1976)

I rewatched Rocky today for the first time in like decades! It was one of the first movies we rented when my parents bought our first VCR. Oh, I loved those huge padded Warner Brothers video cases!


It’s such a simple premise but one which clearly struck a chord with audiences. A small-time, part-time boxer who is struggling to survive day to day gets a shot at the heavyweight championship belt.

There are so many cliches I could fall into using such as ‘rags to riches’ and ‘underdog’ when reviewing this film but the thing is they’re all true. The film is so well made and written that in itself it doesn’t feel cliched or cheesy when dealing with such themes. No wonder the film became a huge earner at the box office.


The sequence which marks the film’s and leading character’s turning point is, of course, the running/training scene with the iconic theme playing in the background. It’s genuinely uplifting and moving- just like the entire film really.

Bonus marks for having Joe Spinell and Lloyd Kaufman as cast members.

Stallone also penned the screenplay. Nice job, Sly.

4 stars out of 5

Review- The Square Ring (1953)

Review- The Square Ring (1953)

A British film from the 50’s about professional boxing. We get to meet those fighters who participate in a one-night event that involves a programme of many fights.

This film is like a snapshot of a long lost era of British filmmaking. We have great characters, a sly sense of humour at play and grit in the way the sport is portrayed as completely corrupt and in turn corrupting.

square ring insert

The film also shows how truly brutal the sport is. The ending is totally gut-wrenching and completely unexpected.

We also get British film royalty in the guise of legends such as Joan Collins, Joan Sims and Sid James as part of the cast.


Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars