Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielson, Tony Burton, Michael Pataki
Running Time: 91 Minutes
I must break you.
We are back to the Rockython and we might be at the peak of the franchise’s campiness. Rocky III was the series’ turning point to becoming the cheesy 80s montage-athons that the general public remembers these films for but Rocky IV was the film that took it to a whole new level. Like all previous Rocky films, the opening is the ending of the previous film, this time showing the end of the Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) v Lang fight and the friendly, behind-closed-doors match between Balboa and Creed (Apollo Creed). The film then shows us how far Rocky has come as he now owns a mansion, lives with his children, Adrian (Talia Shire) and a now fatter and greyer Paulie (Burt Young) who is given a robot for his birthday in the first sequence at the house. Yes. This film has a robot, but not just one. The second, and more menacing robot is the new, undefeated soviet boxer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). The stone-faced and massive Russian foe is the frontman for the USSR’s attempt to enter boxing and his first match in the west is against Apollo Creed after he gives a speech about how he wants to return to the sport to face the unknown enemy.
While the Russian’s are very serious, Creed wants to make the fight more entertaining and so he enters the ring dancing in a USA outfit to a live performance from James Brown. It’s literally the most cocky, stupidly over-proud American thing of all time. His hubris clouds his vision and while starts out the fight with playful jabs and almost dancing around the ring, he’s suddenly defeated by the absolute power of Drago. Not only is he defeated, but to mirror Mickey’s death in the first Rocky III fight, Apollo Creed dies. On top of this, Rocky feels at fault as at the request of Creed, he doesn’t throw in the towel when it becomes obvious Creed’s life is in danger. Because of this, Rocky wants revenge and challenges Drago who accepts (via Drago’s wife (Brigitte Nielson)) under the condition that the fight takes place in Russia on Christmas Day. What follows is a lot of montages and the final fight that actually dismantles communism in Russia. That’s it. There is a lot less non-montage and fight time than there is montage and fight time. Rocky and Rocky II were less about the fights and more about the character drama. That’s over.
You can feel the film trying to think of stuff to do between montages and while it tries to stay on a non-montage subject (most notably for me was when Adrian came to Russia) it just gives up after a few minutes and plays a new 80s song with more close ups of muscle-y men’s thighs. There are so many montages in this film, starting with a “memories” montage where Rocky remembers his relationships with Creed and Adrian after Creed’s death. I’d like to say there are at least five montages in the film, many of them in Russia as Rocky and Drago train for their big fight. Rocky trains in more humble ways like running in the snow and doing pull ups in his little log cabin (also while growing a beard). Drago trains in a very industrial Russian gym factory thing while getting steroid(?) injections. In the best of the training montages, Rocky finishes the hilarious sequence by running up to the top of a mountain and shouting “Draaaaaaagooooooo!”. Yes, he runs to the top of a fucking mountain and just shouts the name of the guy he’s about to fight.
This film is absolutely ridiculous. It’s one of the most stupid films I’ve ever seen. After Rocky beats Drago in a match, where the Russians start cheering on Rocky towards the end, he gives a terribly written speech with the iconic finishing lines of “If I can change, and you can change, then everyone can change!”. It actually causes the Gorbachev rip-off to stand up and clap. It’s the dumbest thing of all time. Every ten minutes the film did something where I said to myself this is the cheesiest thing I’ve ever seen. EVERY TEN MINUTES! I mean this in a good way. After just one viewing, I place this film right next to Moonraker in the holy grail of amazing stupid cheesy films. This film is truly and jaw-droppingly brilliant in how cheesy it is. There’s not a single moment in the film that is not funny, be it purposeful or not. This film certainly is not the best Rocky film but while I have not seen Creed yet, this is my favourite Rocky film. It’s just hysterical. A real piece of art.
Summary: Rocky IV is one of the cheesiest films of all time but somehow manages to keep it fun and consistent so well that it is one of the greatest guilty pleasure movies of all time. It’s pure 80s silliness and completely impossible not to enjoy.
Best Performance: Sylvester Stallone
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%