There is so much wrong with Rocky V. I learned recently that Sylvester Stallone had wanted his iconic character to die in this one. The studio fought him on it and won. Looking back, I have to believe Stallone is relieved he didn’t finish off the Italian Stallion in what turned out to be an awful movie.
From the start there are serious problems with the film. We’re supposed to be in a timeline that is just after the big match in the Soviet Union. Rocky returns home and his kid looks twice as old as he was when Rocky left. I’m not a mathematician, doctor, nor scientist but I’m pretty sure a few months away from home (maximum) will not cause a child to grow and age by multiple years. Also, I’m almost positive the Balboas return to a different home in Rocky V than the one they left on their trip from in the previous movie. Everything is off kilter from the start.
In addition to the miraculously aged kid, we get some new, terrible characters. There is Duke, a boxing promoter who I think is supposed to be Don King. He comes out early and annoys us with his boisterous talk during Rocky’s first press conference back in the US. Not content to annoy us only at the beginning, we get Duke all throughout, managing to irritate with the mere sound of his voice. By the end he had ramped up his antics to the point where I swore his teeth were going to pop out of his mouth as he over emoted every syllable. Not to be outdone, real life boxer, Tommy Morrison (Tommy “Machine” Gunn) does his best to steal the show with his mullet and dreadful acting. In the last scenes of the movie it’s as if there was a competition to see who could out scream the other – Duke or Tommy Gunn. In that competition there is no winner but there is definitely a loser – us, the viewers.
Back to the kid, Rocky Jr, played by Stallone’s real life son, Sage Stallone. Had it not been for the stiff competition from Duke and Tommy Gunn, Rocky’s son would win the award for most annoying performance. When a film goes out of its way to suspend the audience’s disbelief in order to introduces a kid who is suddenly much older than the previous one, that kid better give an awesome performance. Instead of awesome we get well below average. The character development of the son is such that we should feel empathy. Instead all we feel is an urge to hone our boxing skills on the whiny adolescent.
I can see how the premise of Rocky V probably seemed reasonable on paper. Rocky has taken too many beatings. He is no longer medically eligible to fight in the ring. His accountant swindled him out of all his money. Rocky returns to his old neighborhood in Philly. His only refuge is that he still owns Mick’s gym which he reopens to start training younger boxers. While running the gym Rocky meets a young, raw boxer who reminds Rocky of himself in Tommy Gunn. Rocky takes Tommy under his wing and has him winning fights in no time. Tommy eventually gets full of himself and sells Rocky out for fame and fortune. Teacher and pupil become at odds with one another. Not a terrible outline. And yet the details destroy this movie.
There was promise in Rocky V. If done right, it should have been the last movie, nicely capping off the series. It wasn’t done right and thankfully Stallone got to do another film in an attempt to redeem what was once an Oscar winning force.