Arguably the greatest sports movie of all time. So this is about a small time boxer named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He doesn’t have a whole lot going on for him, but he gets by. One day, the chance to fight the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), falls in his lap, and he must start training immediately for this momentous occasion. I went a very long time without watching this movie. Not because I had any bias against it, it was just a film that I never took the time to sit down and watch. As far as popularity goes, I do think this was my biggest blind spot in film, and people have given me a hard time on a number of different occasions for not having seen this. With the release of Creed, I couldn’t think of a better time to rectify this, and what do you know, it really is the greatest boxing movie ever made.
Forget Dodgeball, this is the ultimate underdog story.
I don’t usually go for boxing movies and that is entirely because so many of them follow the same exact template. With movies like Southpaw or The Fighter, you know exactly what you’re going to get, which is a story that goes a little something like this: an unlikely protagonist rises up and overcomes struggles and hardship to bring their personal life around through their sport and craft. There, I just described almost every film in an entire genre. The thing is that they all got it from Rocky, as it is the original and still remains the best. Not even just boxing movies lift from Rocky, sport movies in general do; we wouldn’t have one of my favorite films in The Wrestler if we didn’t have Rocky. I love less-than-intelligent protagonists when they are earnest, and this has one of the best examples out there; you can see all of the emotions right there on his sleeve, and Stallone play it masterfully.
The training montage to this is amazing; I’ve seen it by itself on its own, but in the actual context of the film, it is even better. That music is like no other, and when the brass section starts playing, it is like instant energy flows into your body as soon as you hear it. It is more than just a boxing movie, and the thought did cross my mind: for a boxing movie, there’s really not all that much boxing. You have a fight at the beginning and the climactic fight at the end, and that’s really about it. The middle is almost entirely drama and training, and that is the meat of the story. You get a great feel of all of the characters so you can really rally behind them and root for them, and you also get a really good feel of Philadelphia as a city. I am still of the mindset that once you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve seen them all, but this is the one that did it best.
Rocky (1976) *****
– Critic for Hire