Rocky (1976)

2009-06-29 09:15
 
Rocky

If any sequels gave a movie a bad name, Rockys II-V did that to Rocky, a surprise low-budget sleeper hit that made Sylvester Stallone an overnight mega-star, both for his writing and his acting abilities. But don't hold the sequels against this amazing original.

I was deprived of violent movies as a child, so I hadn't seen Rocky (not even one of them) until last night. How well would a movie like this stand up without nostalgia to give it a warm, familiar glow?

Critical write-ups have been mixed, although it's generally considered a classic, ranging from fanboy blog posts to caustic comments such as this one - "A dunce who can fight with a contagious likability: Now that's American" - from Chris Cabin of filmcritic.com, who for some odd reason neglected to mention how sexually attractive Stallone also is in this movie.

For those who, for one reason or another, managed to let Rocky pass them by completely, here's a summary of the plot: Rocky Balboa is a debt collector, pushing thirty, whose suppressed boxing stardom dreams look like they'll come to nothing. But when heavyweight champion boxer Appollo Creed's scheduled opponent can't fight due to an injury, the promoters approach Rocky to take his place, billing him as the "Italian Stallion".

Meanwhile, Rocky has started dating his unstable alcoholic friend Paulie's ugly duckling sister Adrian (mainly because Paulie insisted). Yes, it's the classic tale of the blue-collar underdog who takes his last chance, makes the most of it, and gets the girl - and the good thing about classic tales is that they do stand the test of time, even when the sound's not as great as it could be in places, or the focus blurs slightly in low-lit scenes. 

But it's not really a movie about success, boxing, romance or Philly culture. It's a more universal yet unusual story about loneliness, and overcoming it.

Rocky is clearly all alone, talking to his pet turtles, and nervous or untalkative around other people. But he begins to overcome his isolation when he agrees to let retired boxer Mickey manage and train him. He also opens himself up on a one to one basis to Adrian, seeing past her brother's disrespect for her to her true beauty. Her character, in turn, gives all abused and socially outcast nerd girls hope for a better life as she earns the respect and dignity she deserves.

Shot in a gritty, but unpretentious style, with a couple of contemplative scenes that echo Breakfast at Tiffany's (as do the themes, in fact), Rocky is unexpectedly quietly paced, strangely subtle, and gripping cinema. It's packed with unforgettable moments and images. Who can forget Rocky punching a carcass in Paulie's massive refrigeration room, his fists covered in blood, and Paulie's unforgettable line "You're breakin' the ribs. You do that to Apollo Creed, they'll put us in jail for murder."

Still a classic, 33 years after its release, Rocky is still DVD-store gold - a popcorn movie that also has real heart and soul.


A bit of trivia:

- Rocky's storyline was partly based on the story of Chuck Wepner, a virtually unknown New Jersey boxer who challenged flashy heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to a title fight in 1975, and managed, unexpectedly, to go the distance.

- Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the script, had to fight to give himself the starring role. Potential funders wanted Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds or James Caan for the part instead. 

- Sly even had to sell his dog for $25 to survive. Despite this, he refused deals that made him merely the screenwriter.

- Rocky director John G. Avildsen also directed and edited the Karate Kid movies.

- The steps up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which appeared in a training scene in the movie, were renamed the Rocky Steps in the movie's honour.

- 2006's Rocky Balboa (which Stallone directed, wrote and played the lead role in, as he often has) was both a commercial and critical success for the Rocky franchise.

- Stallone played a subway thug in Woody Allen's 1971 comedy, Bananas.
 
Best quotes

Rocky: [to his pet turtles] If you guys could sing or dance, I wouldn't be doin' this, you know?

Rocky: I been comin' here for six years, and for six years ya been stickin' it to me, an' I wanna know how come!
Mickey: Ya don't wanna know!
Rocky: I wanna know how come!
Mickey: Ya wanna know?
Rocky: I WANNA KNOW HOW!
Mickey: OK, I'm gonna tell ya! You had the talent to become a good fighter, but instead of that, you become a legbreaker to some cheap, second rate loan shark!
Rocky: It's a living.
Mickey: IT'S A WASTE OF LIFE!

Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What's the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno... she fills gaps.
Paulie: What's 'gaps'?
Rocky: I dunno, she's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.
Paulie: Are you ballin' her?
Rocky: Hey!
[punches Paulie in the shoulder]
Rocky: You don't talk dirty about your sister!

Paulie: [about Adrian] She's pushing thirty freaking years old, and if she don't wise up, she's gonna die an old maid.
Rocky: I'm thirty myself!

Adrian: Einstein flunked out of school, twice.
Paulie: Is that so?
Adrian: Yeah. Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky's got a good chance.

Mickey: Your nose is broken.
Rocky: How does it look?
Mickey: Ah, it's an improvement.

Rocky: I can't do it.
Adrian: What?
Rocky: I can't beat him.
Adrian: Apollo?
Rocky: Yeah. I been out there walkin' around, thinkin'. I mean, who am I kiddin'? I ain't even in the guy's league.
Adrian: What are we gonna do?
Rocky: I don't know.
Adrian: You worked so hard.
Rocky: Yeah, that don't matter. 'Cause I was nobody before.
Adrian: Don't say that.
Rocky: Ah come on, Adrian, it's true. I was nobody. But that don't matter either, you know? 'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.


Starring and written by Sylvester Stallone, while he was still hot (and cool), this sleeper hit beat everything at the box office and at the Oscars.

Hung 2009/06/14 3:54 PM
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wow, I think this movie is really good..
Test 2009/06/15 11:25 AM
Notes
MDZ 2009/06/15 11:28 AM
Rocky....I was born in 1985 and in my early years,Rocky was the only cassette I would watch.Fast forward 23 years later,I`m working & I have all Rocky Movies incl Rocky Balboa.Its the humbleness,the ruggedness,the theme music,the backround that inspires me.Sly is sleek and a cool guy...and Rocky Rocks!
gavin 2009/06/15 12:32 PM
It is a brilliant movie, some classic scenes and lines, a real surprise for anyone who pre-judges it by the sequils, but I think the biggest loser in this regard is JAWS. The original is also a classic with many memorable scenes and characters, who could ever forget "I think we're gonna need a bigger boat"?
Billybob 2009/06/15 4:02 PM
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"Themes that echo Breakfast at Tiffany's"? Intriguing. Please explain.
Jean 2009/06/15 4:06 PM
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@ Billybob Re. Breakfast at Tiffany's: Two people who seem different on the surface, who live metres from each other, discovering their common loneliness and curing it in the process. Also, both facing the demons they fear. Having defended myself, I'll admit this is partly personal perception here.
preshen govender 2009/06/17 9:45 AM
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I Hope rocky can inspire Bafana – Bafana to win
preshen govender 2009/06/18 9:13 AM
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They said the day Bafana Bafana will win pigs will fly …Now they won and pigs Flue.
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