He’s Not a Machine, He’s a Man!
I was excited to finally reach this sequel in the Rocky franchise, mainly because I work with the guy that played the opponent in this movie. I know that many of the people around my place of business claim that his name is Tim, but I am 100% positive that he’s actually Ivan Drago. When I think of the Rocky franchise, this is often the movie that I immediately go to in my mind. It’s nowhere near the best movie in the series, but something about this movie makes me regard it as the pinnacle of the series. Let’s see if I’m able to put the reason into words in my review of Rocky IV, written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, and also starring Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Brigitte Nielsen, Michael Pataki, Tony Burton, Burt Young, Dominic Barto, Rocky Krakoff, Sylvia Meals, and James Brown.
A gigantic Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) arrives in America with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), his manager Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki), and an idea to prove himself as the best boxer ever. Retired former champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) gets it in his head that he should challenge Drago to an exhibition match to prove that he’s not over the hill. His old friend and twice rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) try to talk Apollo out of it, but he’s got something to prove. And what is that? That he is so stupid that he’ll refuse to let someone stop the fight that he’s clearly losing so that it will result in him being beaten to death in the ring. You did it, Apollo! Not to be outdone on the stupid front, Rocky challenges Ivan to a fight in the USSR. I assume that, if Rocky wins, Apollo will come back to life. Otherwise what’s the point?
I would say this movie is probably the best example of why women don’t seem that interested in watching the first Rocky movie. It’s incredibly cheesy in parts and the motivation for the entire movie is testosterone. It exemplifies the things that I hate about those kinds of testosterone driven men. “I’m rich and happily married and have no reason to ever work again, but I’m going to fight a giant until he kills me because I don’t want people to think I’m over the hill.” “I’m clearly not doing anything in this fight and, in fact, am getting killed, but don’t you dare throw in the towel because being bludgeoned to death by a gigantic Russian and leaving my wife a grieving widow is preferable to losing a fight and being called washed up.” “I too am rich and happily married and have no reason to ever work again, but I will fight the giant that just murdered my friend with punches because … well … he murdered my friend with punches. And I don’t want to get paid for it either.” If this is the kind of intelligence that testosterone allows, I’m going to stop taking those injections and tell the doctor to give me my vagina back. Speaking of stupid, what the fuck was with the robot in this movie? Rocky gives a 6 foot robot to Paulie as a gift. It gets like a half hour of screen time in this movie! It’s a major plot point somehow! As mentioned with the other movies, this movie definitely follows the classic Rocky pattern. Something happens, Rocky gets depressed, Rocky trains really hard, Rocky triumphs. The training montage made me laugh too, mainly because Rocky’s method of “training” would be what all the people around him in Russia would call “chores”, and Drago was training on the deck of the Enterprise. Rocky’s little speech at the end was pretty bad and stupid as well. I understand that Stallone probably wanted to bring about change in what was probably some tension between America and the Soviet Union (I’ll have to assume because I was two when this movie came out), but I feel pretty confident that a boxer punching one of their boxers and making a hair-brained speech afterwards would not change foreign policies. Especially when his big speech is, “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.” Depending on how loosely you define “you”, then yeah, that’s basically the definition of “everybody”.
I mentioned one of the greatest things that the Rocky series had introduced me to in the previous movie when I mentioned that they brought the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” to the limelight. I have a certain appreciation for cheesy 80’s music that gets you amped up, and this movie threw three new ones at us. “No Easy Way Out” is another kick ass song, an equal to “Eye of the Tiger” in my opinion. It would’ve been nice if the song wasn’t used over a really bad montage of filler, though. All of those scenes had nothing to do with each other, and I’m not sure what they were trying to say with the montage. It was just like, “What scenes were cool from the other three movies and even the beginning of this one? SMASH THEM TOGETHER!!” Survivor didn’t want to be left out of the cheese so they threw “Burning Heart” into the movie. I would say the cheesiest one was “Hearts on Fire”, but I still enjoyed it.
This movie continues the trend started in the previous movie of changing all the characters. Rocky became well-spoken, Adrian was no longer shy, and Mickey was no longer into breathing. In this movie, they even changed Paulie. All of the earlier movies had Burt Young playing the role of a very unlikeable person that Rocky kept around for reasons that were never explained. He was always jealous of Rocky’s success, but was himself a complete loser with no likeable qualities. He’s still not likeable, but he’s become more like comic relief in this movie. Dolph Lundgren did fine as Ivan Drago, but didn’t have to do very much beyond being physically intimidating and force out a couple of words like, “If he dies, he dies,” and, “I will break him.” I was also surprised to see Brigitte Nielsen and Michael Pataki in this movie. Michael Pataki surprised me because I hadn’t put together that the guy from Sidehackers and The Baby was his manager until this viewing. I knew Brigitte Nielsen was in this movie, but I was surprised to find that she actually used to be attractive, whereas now she looks like a Barbie doll that got left in the microwave.
Rocky IV is super cheesy, but not without a certain degree of enjoyment. The story follows the same pattern as the rest of the Rocky movies, but this time with a Russian and a dumb speech that shows the world that we can all change, but only if a punch drunk goon tells us to. The writing is dumb and predictable, and this one is exactly the testosterone driven dumbness that some people wrongly expect from the original, but it’s still kind of fun in a campy way. And it has the most memorable opponent of the Rocky series in it, so you have to watch it. Rocky IV gets “Whatever he hits, he destroys” out of “You will lose.”
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