Watching Rocky V you really get the feeling they try to take the franchise full circle but due to some bad choices Stallone created a movie that has left a bad taste in almost everybody’s mouth. The movie has Rocky returning to his old neighborhood, once again donning his leather jacket and well known hat from the first movie. Adrian goes to work again at the pet store and Paulie still drinks a lot. The only new element is the large amount of screen time dedicated to Rocky Jr. who’s now going to school but constantly gets beat up on the playground. How is this all possible you say? Well apparently Rocky’s accountant contacts Paulie if he wants to have “Rocko” sign some papers, so Paulie puts the papers under Rocky’s nose not knowing he’s granting the accountant full power of attorney. Bottom line: nobody reads something before they sign it. The result: The money is invested in a project and vaporizes, Rocky goes bankrupt and moves back to Philly with not a dime in his account. A couple of fights could bring in some easy money, but Drago’s punches in part IV have made mashed potatoes of Rocky’s brain so that’s out of the question. One hit could kill Rocky, just ask Adrian, since her only function in this movie is to remind us of that every 10 minutes or so. He reopens Mickey’s Jim which his son had inherited and starts training boxers, including one Tommy “The Machine” Gun whom he starts treating like the son he never had. Oh wait, but he has a son… well it should come to you as no surprise that this will cause a lot of friction in the Balboa family.
The Rocky series started out as a gritty low-key drama about a small-time boxer getting a million in one chance at the title. With parts III and IV it turned into a more polished franchise where the opponents got more gimmicky and the classic fanfare soundtrack was replaced by pop tunes resulting in movies targeted to the MTV generation. It’s quite a culture shock when within 15 minutes Rocky’s whole world is turned upside down again as he goes from riches to rags and after that continues to be quite depressing, much too depressing in my opinion. The Rocky movies have always been about a man defeating the odds that were not in his favor. For four movies he went the distance and gave opponents a hard time in the ring eventually defeating them save for the first movie. Rocky V however ends on a down note, which sounds interesting on paper but doesn’t work. It’s clear Stallone pondered with the idea of having Rocky die at the end of this movie, but eventually gives him a small last victory in what would have been the end of the series. The problem is that Rocky fights someone who was just three scenes earlier his friend and it’s a street fight. With four movies ending in a boxing arena, it’s strange to have a franchise that actually started in the ring end on the streets of Philadelphia. It doesn’t help that Tommy Morrison who plays Tommy Gun can’t act and is an obnoxious character right from the start. He never has any of the charisma that Apollo, Clubber or Drago had.
So Rocky III had the slogan “Eye of the tiger” running throughout the movie resonating in the smash hit song by Survivor. Part V tries to repeat the same thing with the sentence “Go for it” which is mentioned multiple times throughout the movie and is the title of a not so catchy early 90’s rap song featured during a montage. If you haven’t seen this movie, you probably never heard it…
“Is it really that bad?” you might be wondering. Well not entirely, there are some moments that work, the two little moments of hope the movie presents us with when Rocky Jr. defeats his school bullies and when Tommy starts winning multiple matches. Other than that there’s nothing much redeemable about the movie which in a way doesn’t make any sense. Rocky might not be able to fight, but he can’t capitalize on his fame and success especially right after defeating Drago? He did endorsements in the third movie, surely he can do a commercial or two. Sports shows are always interested in commentaries by former professionals. I find it hard to believe that this man, who basically ended the Cold War in part IV, has no way to earn money other than going back to Philadelphia and open a gym.
So yeah, Rocky V basically killed off the franchise leaving only Stallone to believe in another installment. It’s the least liked installment in the franchise and for good reasons.