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Directed and written by Sylvester Stallone. Produced by Charles Winkler, David Winkler, Billy Chartoff, and Kevin King Templeton. Release date: December 20, 2006.
Despite Rocky V existing, Sylvester Stallone isn't one to let his franchises die. So, 16 years later, he wrote and directed Rocky Balboa, the new promised conclusion of the franchise - until, of course, Creed was announced. Balboa sees an older Rocky come out of retirement to take on the current champion, because if there's anyone who could do that, it's Rocky.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone): A two-time World Heavyweight Champion who now owns a restaurant named after his late wife, Adrian.
Paulie Pennino (Burt Young): Adrian's brother and Rocky's friend.
Robert Balboa (Milo Ventimiglia): Rocky and Adrian's child, now an adult.
Marie (Geraldine Hughes): A woman Rocky befriends, and whom he met over 30 years earlier.
Stephenson (James Francis Kelly III): Marie's son.
Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver): The film's antagonist. A cocky World Heavyweight Champion.
Picking up with Rocky Balboa enjoying his retirement as the owner and operator of a local restaurant, a computer boxing simulation shown on the television puts him against the current champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon. Rocky is declared victorious. This inspires him to take up boxing again, completely ignoring the irreversible brain damage he was told he had in the last film. Meanwhile, Dixon's camp sends out feelers in an attempt to see if Rocky will fight him, as Dixon has never faced a real challenge. Rocky reluctantly agrees.
Rocky's son, Robert, is now a mid-ranking corporate employee and continues to feel like he's living in his father's shadow. He's not okay with his father's comeback, initially, but eventually concedes, quitting his job to be in his father's corner. Despite being given very little chance by anyone, Rocky trains hard and gets ready for an exhibition match against the World Heavyweight Champion.
The match comes and is billed "Will vs. Skill," as Rocky's skills have clearly diminished with age, but his will has never been called into question. Rocky and Dixon go the distance, and the match ends without a clear victor. Rocky leaves the ring before the result is announced, happy enough that he was able to stand his ground - mirroring that of the first film. Dixon wins by split decision, but nobody cares.
Is It Any Good?
Rocky Balboa is the second best movie in the franchise, which is astounding given that it takes place over a decade and a half after its predecessor, and because it's basically just telling the same story we've seen over and over again, but this time with nods to the earlier films in the series - while completely ignoring Rocky V, for obvious reasons. But with some really solid boxing and by making Rocky feel like a genuine underdog again, it's actually pretty entertaining. The father-son relationship is still terrible, but this is a more thoughtful Rocky movie, and it turns out that giving the character time and space to breathe was enough to make him feel fresh again.