Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Running Time: 90 mins
Rocky IV is an American film and the fourth in the Rocky series. On top of the world, Rocky Balboa sees a challenger from the Soviet Union land on American shores, first taking on his old friend Apollo Creed. However, when that fight goes awry, Rocky must burst into action to save both his own, and his country’s honour.
With Rocky and Rocky II, this franchise started out with understated, heartfelt and touching drama. Rocky III took a step away from that, with more sporting action, but still featured engaging storytelling. Rocky IV, however, goes all-out with a ludicrously entertaining sports story that’s a world away from where this saga began.
As a result, I can’t say that Rocky IV is anywhere near as good as the first three movies in this series, but what I can say is that it’s by far the most fun-loving entry so far. A simple, superficial story for the most part, it’s still filled with great action, fun music and montage after montage.
It may not be the emotionally resonant or spirited underdog tale that its predecessors were, but if you’re looking for big, blockbuster sporting action, then Rocky IV is the movie for you.
The film’s biggest charm is its unapologetically jingoistic view of Cold War politics, with the bout between the Soviet Union’s towering fighter Ivan Drago and the USA’s Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa used as a completely superficial but hugely entertaining metaphor for the conflict.
If you want to get a grasp of stereotypical American views of the Soviet Union in the ’80s, Rocky IV is full of them, with the film presenting the Russians as cold, depressing and evil. And that’s about it.
Meanwhile, the Americans do everything the good ol’ way, and never give in even against unsurmountable odds. In truth, that’s a similar message to the first three films in the franchise, and it works just as well when it comes to the final fight in this movie, but as far as the overall story goes, it’s less than spectacular.
The problem with Rocky IV is that, at so many moments, it feels like a movie that’s really jumping the shark. Of course, it’s just having fun, and the film’s blockbuster style means you can sit back, turn your brain off and have fun with it too, but things like Rocky climbing a Russian mountain with his bare hands to the live-in robot maid at the Balboa household and more are just too far-fetched for the film’s own good.
As far as the actual boxing action goes, it’s still just as good as the first three movies, although with less emotional intensity. That’s in part down to the fact that this film spends so much less time on life away from boxing, and it’s difficult to find that same emotional connection with the characters this time round compared with past films.
Meanwhile, the periods in between the main fights here are composed more of montages than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, the montage sequences are quintessential Rocky, and gave the first three films an extra edge, but this is just over-the-top, with montage after montage coming straight at you, diluting the blood-pumping excitement they really should be providing.
So, it’s fair to say that Rocky IV definitely isn’t on the level of the first three films in this franchise. It’s a fun watch without a doubt, and the perfect sporting movie for when you don’t want to get too emotionally attached, but it lacks the impressive depth and drama of its predecessors. Overall, though, Rocky IV is an enjoyable, silly blockbuster, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.