Rocky Balboa, a.k.a. Rocky VI, is a fitting closing that, at the sound of it, seems uncalled-for. Who would have thought that there was another tale to tell, or even enough energy in Sylvester Stallone to play the iconic boxer once more? Nonetheless, Rocky Balboa exists, and it is an honorable effort to say the least.
While Rocky Balboa may seem like a money-grubbing scheme on paper, it is fitting epilogue to the rest of the saga. It is written well and executed excellently. Stallone shines on screen, in the director’s chair, and with the pen in his hand.
Remembered as one of the best the sport has ever seen, retired boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) now mans a restaurant called “Adrian’s.” Obviously named after his recently deceased wife, Adrian’s serves as a nice Italian eatery in downtown Philadelphia where locals and tourists alike can come for good food and stories from the champ.
Now at a reflective point in his life, Rocky spends his time trying to reconnect with his son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) and offering assistance to Little Marie (Geraldine Hughes) and her son Steps (James Francis Kelly III). In between attempting to make others happy, Rocky discovers that he must reenter the world of boxing to find both himself and happiness once more.
After observing an ESPN “then vs. now” virtual fight, Rocky is inspired to get back in the ring at a ripe old age. Even though he is far past his prime, Rocky intends to fight with heart. He begins to think small-time, but others have something different in mind. When the opportunity presents itself to go toe-to-toe with the current heavyweight champion, Mason “the Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver), Rocky starts to train and prepares for one last “gloried sparring match.”
The film's high points are found in its drama, comedy, and flashbacks, while the low points come in the actual sparring sequences. Too many scenes appear to be a carbon copy of the frenetic MTV camera style. Furthermore, the plot doesn’t bare much of a backbone (with its ESPN simulation inspiration), and the “then vs. now” storyline alone is difficult to justify the production. Yet, Balboa still pulls off a job well done.
Despite the fact that a jab to the jaw from your average 60-year-old man doesn’t exactly account for intimidation, Rocky Balboa is a hard-hitting uppercut. Mind you, it isn’t a knockout, but it is enough of a well-timed and well-placed hit to get the crowd excited.
This sixth part of the story is an elegy to the city of Philadelphia and an appropriate conclusion to the beloved chronicle of the Italian Stallion. If you are a fan of the series, this final round is an absolute must.