Review by Dan Skip Allen
Rocky IV came out in the heart of the Cold War when the United States and Russia were bitter enemies of one another. Photos of huge military armaments surfaced around the world. This was meant to be the picture of strength and power these countries have. Say what you will about the power of patriotism, it worked in this case. Rocky IV was a huge hit.
Sylvester Stallone came back for this film as actor and director and he didn't miss a beat. This was another great installment of this storied franchise. He always seems to find a way to make Rocky the underdog even when he's the champ. Along with himself returning he brought in Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago and Brigitte Nielsen as his wife. They both looked and sounded the part of Russians in the film. They were perfectly cast in these roles.
The boxing in the Rocky films has always been more for show than actual mechanical boxing, even though there are great montages of training scenes with inspirational songs such as "Hearts on Fire" and so forth. The fight scenes are more for dramatic license in the film, but they are very effective in getting the audience into the film. Whether it is the beginning as Rocky beats Clubber Lang or the middle when Apollo dies at the hands of Ivan Drago or when Rocky beats Drago to overcome huge odds at the end of the film.
A part of the Rocky films that to me and many others is so great is the one-liners that people quote from the films. In this case, there are a few great quotes, such as when Adrian (Talia Shire) says to Rocky when he has announced he's fighting Drago, "You can't win". This rings so powerfully in the viewer's eyes. We are genuinely concerned for Rocky. Another great quote comes from Drago, 'I will break you,' before the fight and Rocky during and after the fight, 'I see three of him Paulie," "Hit the one in the middle," and "If I can change and you can change, then everyone can change." That was a truly inspirational line in the film.
Rocky had always been an allegory for the people of America and how we have overcome so much in our lives and the country as a whole has overcome so much. This film is the perfect example of that. It mirrors true life perfectly. Stallone knew what he was doing when he put this film into motion. He knew he had the people on the palm of his hand with this film. The original runtime was 1 hr 31 minutes and this new version of the film is 1 hour 34 minutes. It basically adds more to the montage scenes and gives the audience a few more minutes to hear "Eye of the Tiger" at the end of the film. Which never gets old in my opinion.
Rocky IV is a spectacle no matter how you look at it. From James Brown singing "Coming to America" before the Apollo Drago exhibition fight to the scenes of the Russians in the crowd in Moscow at the Rocky vs Drago fight cheering for Rocky, it is not meant to be very subtle. This film is in your face from the very beginning and it's great for that. Whether people like it or not, they can't deny the fact this film worked on all levels from the production value to the acting and the music. It was a perfect storm that resulted in one of the all-time great sports films in a great franchise. I will always love Rocky IV no matter what anyone says. Even if it's a little dated.
Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago hits VOD on November 12.