After learning he has suffered brain damage, Rocky reluctantly retires
and takes on a hotheaded protege who ultimately betrays him.
Rocky V (1990)
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Burgess Meredith, Richard Gant
Sequel to 1985's Rocky IV
Rocky V doesn't hold a candle to the first four films, but it isn't nearly as terrible as critics have said it was. The way I see it, this film was condemned for daring to take the character of Rocky Balboa in a more realistic direction. Nobody bothered to give it a chance and because of that, it was pushed into the dark and has continued to be panned as a terrible film. I'm here to say that Rocky V isn't a terrible film. It's simply a different story than what we've seen four times before.
The Rocky formula is a simple one that's worked for decades. Rocky is challenged by a tough new fighter, he trains hard for the fight, he looks like he might lose, the music swells and he delivers the knockout hit. Apart from the first film, this has been the norm for Rocky II, III, and IV. Rocky V shows the consequences of Rocky's heavyweight fights. He's suffered brain damage and can't risk another bout. On top of that, Paulie has lost all of his money by betting on real estate, causing the Balboa family to pack up and move back to the old neighborhood. This film sees Rocky go full circle and end up back where he started, where he meets a hothead named Tommy Gunn (played by the late Tommy Morrison). Tommy is unlike any fighter Rocky's ever seen. Tommy wants the title and he uses Rocky's trust to get to it, ultimately challenging Rocky himself in a fit of rage. While the final street fight between Rocky and Tommy doesn't equal the tension of Rocky's fights with Apollo, Clubber Lang, or Drago, it still means something important to the story. The street fight shows how much he's lost over the years and how, through all of it, he never lost his heart.
As I said before, it's not fair to compare this film to the first four. They were awesome and this one is much more of a retrospective into Rocky's past decisions, both good and bad. One of the best things about this film is how it handled Rocky's relationship with his son, who was played by Sly's real-life son Sage Stallone. I don't resent this film for not giving me the same formula I was used to. I enjoyed it for different reasons, one of which was Stallone's subdued performance as a beaten and worn Rocky Balboa. Rocky V is worth watching for its dramatic heft, but if you're looking forward to an epic climax, I'm afraid you'll end up disappointed.