Rocky Balboa should never have worked and yet it does, triumphantly so. Stallone dusted off the iconic character after the creakiness of the last few sequels had mostly been forgotten back in 2006, and dropped some hurtin’ bombs on old fans of the series, and any new takers who happened to check it out. I was in tears all throughout this old-timer macho-fantasy, and while the entire thing is sort of ridiculous, Stallone’s heartfelt script felt organic to the world that he created thirty years previous in 1976, while the outcome of the big bout is handled in a realistic and satisfying way. With a narrative that at times felt self-reflexive for Stallone as a human being and an artist, there’s an undeniably touching father-son element to the narrative, with Milo Ventimiglia effectively portraying Rocky’s son, who is reluctant to go along with his dad’s last competitive wish.
Burt Young was back as Paulie, and kicking some ornery ass, while the solid supporting cast was rounded out by Tony Burton, the excellent Geraldine Hughes, and Antonio Tarver has Rocky’s much younger opponent. Bill Conti’s impossibly triumphant score still has the ability to leave a lump in your throat, and I’m a big fan of the understated cinematography by Clark Mathis, who went gritty with his location shooting, and then opted for a mixed-media and multiple perspective style during the big bout, which was really well done. Shot for $25 million and grossing $155 million worldwide, the film was also a success with critics, and is one of those movies that I find to be thoroughly re-watchable; I find myself always watching it whenever I spot it on one of the movie channels. Rocky Balboa worked much in the same way that Stallone’s 2007 Rambo reboot did, in that it took classic material and paid respect to what made it classic without gussying it up too much.