Monday, April 29, 2013


Directed by John G. Avildsen and written and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky is the story of a club fighter who is down on his luck as he is given a shot to fight the heavyweight champion of the world. The film is the first of a series of films that explores the trials and tribulations of Rocky Balboa as he is a kind-hearted man that is trying to make it in the only thing he knows how to do. Also starring Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Tony Burton, and Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. Rocky is a heartwarming and sensational film from John G. Avildsen.

The film is a simple story about a club fighter named Rocky Balboa who is a good, kind-hearted man with little prospects as he is given a shot to fight the World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. Yet, the film follows the life of this guy who knows how to fight while he spends part of his time collecting money for a loan shark just to make a living. Still, it’s not enough as he’s considered a bum by most people living in the urban neighborhood in Philadelphia while a gym owner named Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) is convinced that Rocky is wasting his potential by working for a loan shark. When opportunity arises to fight Apollo Creed all because of his nickname in The Italian Stallion, it becomes one of many things that help Rocky’s life as he also falls for a shy pet store clerk named Adrian (Talia Shire). While he is considered a long-shot to win the fight, Rocky would do something to surprise everyone in his climatic fight with Creed.

Sylvester Stallone’s screenplay reveals a lot of the struggles of a man just trying to get a break in life as he wants to do good yet he isn’t given many opportunities to do so. Particularly as he is someone who is street-smart but had to give up school as a teenager making life much tougher for him. The only friend he has is an alcoholic meat-packing plant worker named Paulie (Burt Young) who is also Adrian’s older brother. Adrian becomes the one person in Rocky’s life that shows him a world with love as he would help her come out of her shell more as she eventually stands up to the abusive tirades of her brother. The opportunity to fight Creed isn’t just something that Rocky needed to help his life but also prove to the people that he’s not a bum. Even as he turns to Mickey for help as Mickey had been reluctant in the past but knows Rocky needs someone who can help him.

The Apollo Creed character is based on some of the more outrageous fighters of the 1960s and 1970s as he’s a man that needed to fight a fighter as his original fight fell through. By giving an unknown a shot at the title on New Year’s Day in 1976, it would give Creed the publicity that he craves for as a man who is generous with the people. What he doesn’t know is that his opponent is training for the fight a little more seriously as it does lead to this fight. There’s a moment in the third act before the fight where an admittedly-scared Rocky knows that he couldn’t beat the undefeated Creed. Yet, he doesn’t want to go out there and lose like a bum where the fight would have Rocky do the unthinkable in that fight.

John G. Avildsen’s direction is quite understated for much of the film in terms of creating the sense of drama as it has this sense of looseness in the way things play out. Even as it features scenes of Rocky walking around place in Philadelphia where the place itself is a character in the film. While a lot of the dramatic moments are shot with some simplicity, the scenes involving the fights are more stylish. Notably in the way it shows Rocky’s training methods like hitting meat in a meat locker or running around the streets of Philadelphia. Avildsen also creates some amazing training montages where the shots of Rocky running in training featured one of the most early uses of the Steadicam that would also include the shot of Rocky reaching the top of the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Arts.

The climatic fight scene is presented with such degree of style where Avildsen does use some stock footage for the crowd scenes as while having the camera be in and outside the ring to capture the intensity. Even as it reveals what the crowd is seeing as there’s a lot of drama in the fight including some moments where both Rocky and Creed put their bodies at great risk. Overall, Avildsen creates a very gripping yet powerful film about a fighter getting the opportunity to do good and fight the champ.

Cinematographer James Crabe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography by using very simple lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interiors and exteriors while creating a sense of style for the film‘s fights with some unique uses of lighting. Editors Scott Conrad and Richard Halsey do great work with the editing to use more simple but effective cuts in the dramatic portions while creating some amazing montages in the training sequence as well as some rhythmic cuts in the climatic fight. Production designer William J. Cassidy, with set decorator Ray Molyneaux and art director James H. Spencer, does nice work with some of the set pieces along with the lavish look of the climatic fight.

Makeup designer Michael Westmore does terrific work with the makeup for the film‘s climatic fight to showcase the brutality the two men put upon each other. The sound work of Bud Alper, Lyle J. Burbridge, William McCaughey, and Harry Warren Tetrick is wonderful for the atmosphere that occurs in the gym and in the fights along with the intimate scene of Rocky and Adrian at the ice skating rink. The film’s music by Bill Conti is brilliant as it features some soaring orchestral music including the theme Gonna Fly Now along with some plaintive piano pieces to express Rocky’s melancholia.

The casting by Caro Jones is fantastic as it features some notable appearances from famed fighter Joe Frazier as well as performances from Joe Spinnell as the loan shark Tony Gazzo, Thayer David as the promoter George Jergens, and Tony Burton as Creed’s trainer Tony “Duke” Evers. Carl Weathers is great as the flamboyant fighter Apollo Creed as a man who is full of charisma and skill only to realize that the opponent he picked isn’t some bum. Burt Young is excellent as Rocky’s friend Paulie who tries to help Rocky out while being very cruel towards his sister claiming she’s making his life difficult. Burgess Meredith is superb as Mickey as a former boxer who is aware of Rocky’s potential as he helps trains for the fight. Talia Shire is wonderful as Adrian as a shy pet store clerk who falls for Rocky as she helps him deal with the doubts he has. Finally, there’s Sylvester Stallone in a magnificent performance as Rocky Balboa by displaying a man who is very good to people though doesn’t get appreciated while being a tough guy with heart as it’s definitely a true breakthrough for Sly.

Rocky is a tremendous film from John G. Avildsen and its star/writer Sylvester Stallone. The film isn’t just one of the great sport movies but also an inspirational story of how an underdog can overcome the odds. Even as it’s a film that started one of the great franchises in films while finding a character in Rocky Balboa for the people to root for. In the end, Rocky is an outstanding film from John G. Avildsen.

Rocky Films: (Rocky II) - (Rocky III) - (Rocky IV) - (Rocky V) - (Rocky Balboa) - Creed (2015 film) - (Creed II)

John G. Avildsen Films: (Turn on to Love) - (Guess What We Learned in School Today?) - (Joe) - (Cry Uncle!) - (Okay Bill) - (Save the Tiger) - (The Stoolie) - (Fore Play) - (W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings) - (Slow Dancing in the Big City) - (The Formula) - (Neighbors) - (Traveling Hopefully) - (A Night in Heaven) - The Karate Kid - The Karate Kid Part II - (Happy New Year) - (For Keeps) - (Lean on Me) - The Karate Kid Part III - (The Power of One) - (8 Seconds) - (Inferno)

© thevoid99 2013

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