You know that weird feeling you get in the pit of your stomach before your plane takes off? Like, the one you get when you look out the window and see that the clouds are super dark and could burst open any moment with a lightning strike or hail or a bunch of birds or something? And then you’d crash and probably be dead and it’d be a horrible tragedy? Well that’s how we feel about the inauguration weekend coming up, in which those dark storm clouds from your fears have already gone out and booked hotel rooms down in D.C. for hear some Toby Keith and, most likely, the words “you’re fired.”
Man, we have such mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, it’s a complete and total betrayal of the Rocky Balboa story. Gone is almost every aspect of the charm that defined the previous films: Talia Shire’s barely in the damn thing, and Stallone’s script has Rocky brooding his way through training montages, looking less like the Italian Stallion and more like John Rambo. You can tell how out of place the whole damn thing is in the franchise as Rocky Balboa and Creed ignored nearly everything about it aside from the fact that Apollo Creed died during a boxing match.
It’s ugly and gaudy in a fantastically ’80s way, and the fight scenes, as iconic as they might be, aren’t nearly as good as the ones in films prior. The locales shift away from naturalism, abandoning the Philly streets for mansions and Stallone’s idea of a snowy Siberian training complex. A solid 10 minutes of the 91-minute runtime is devoted to showing clips from the previous films. Rocky IV is everything film critics hate about long-running franchises.
And yet, if beloved cinematic characters have to inevitably fade into campy husks of their former selves, one can only hope to do it as entertainingly as Rocky IV does it. Ivan Drago is an excellent villain, and it’s hard to believe that Dolph Lundgren only has like nine lines of dialogue in the whole film. There’s so much stupid stuff to love about this movie, from Rocky’s annoying son, to the Soviets’ ridiculously high tech (for 1985) training methods, to the James Brown musical number that pauses the whole damn film to let every last note of “Living In America” ear-fuck you in the most satisfying of ways.
The soundtrack is fucking killer, the fight scenes are memorable (if not totally great), the dialogue is occasionally perfect (we lose it every time Apollo goes on about how he’s “retired more men than social security”), and Paulie gets a fucking robot to serve him beers. It seems that’s what people always forget about this movie. Paulie has a robot that hen-pecks him like Edith Bunker. And that final speech from Stallone, the one that’s barely coherent, where he’s got the the flag draped over his shoulders, yelling “If I can change, you can change.” If that doesn’t get you to your feet clapping, you might not have a pulse.
So it’s a mixed bag, but who gives a shit? Do your patriotic duty and watch a boxer from Philly beat the living shit out of a Russian strongman, and get inspired to kick ass in the real world. If he can change, you can change.
AFTER MIDNIGHT PRESENTS ‘ROCKY IV’ :: Friday, January 20 and Saturday, January 21 at The Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St. in Brookline, MA :: 11:59 p.m., all ages, $12.25 :: Advance tickets :: Coolidge event page