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  Rocky IV No Show Without Punch
Year: 1985
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Brigitte Nielsen, Michael Pataki, Tony Burton, Stu Nahan, James Brown
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 4 votes)
Review: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is the reigning world boxing champion but he's still in training, as tonight with former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), which makes him late for his brother-in-law Paulie's birthday party. Rocky has bought him a talking robot as a present which trundles in with the cake, and later on Rocky reminds his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) that's it's nearly their wedding anniversary. Things couldn't look rosier, until the Soviet figure of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) appears in the U.S.A. to challenge an American to a boxing match. Drago has undergone extensive training with all the latest fighting techniques, and believes himself to be unbeatable, yet Apollo believes otherwise and agrees to compete against him in a friendly match - but he's making a mistake.

During the eighties, the Cold War was hotter than ever, but not a shot was fired; not a shot in real life, that is. On the silver screen, Hollywood attacked the Soviet Union with an enthusiasm that bettered the fifties tales of Communists from outer space, and if the Cold War had been fought in the cinemas, it would have been over a lot quicker, with America the proud victor. Top Gun, Red Dawn and, of course, Rambo were the main assault weapons in the movies' arsenal, but no one had more gall than Sylvester Stallone in making his musclebound, muscleheaded hero of the Rocky films into the personification of American patriotism and power. He scripted this attack on the Soviet Union himself as a triumph, yet again, of the underdog, and if some cried foul at the ridiculous oversimplification of the politics of East and West, it made tons of money and now looks as camp as Christmas, which is appropriately when the final fight is held.

Apollo is conscious of being dangerously close to a hasbeen, and wants to show that he still has what it takes, but Rocky is not so sure that's such a good idea. Nevertheless, Apollo holds a press conference with the monolithic Drago (dressed in a military uniform, in case we didn't realise what he represents) which ends in a near brawl between the two men - Apollo thinks it's just for show, but Drago seems to be taking things very seriously, as does his lookalike wife (Brigitte Nielsen) who speaks for him. Yes, Drago is more like a machine, not Paulie's robot, but a punching automaton, who barely says a word and stares intimidatingly ahead. So the fight goes ahead, and it's held in Las Vegas, with all the restraint you'd expect, i.e. none whatsoever, there are showgirls, glitter, stars and stripes to wave, even James Brown (billed as The Godfather of Soul) turns up to sing "Living in America" - it couldn't be more American if they were all eating Mom's Apple Pie and reciting the Constitution.

However, tragedy is just around the corner, as we suspect when Drago utters his first words, "You vill lose!" to Apollo when they step up to each other. Sure enough, the Russian doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "friendly" and batters Apollo to the canvas, killing him in the process. He might as well have declared war: the U.S. public are horrified and bay for blood, so who's going to take revenge? That's right, Paulie's robot - no, only kidding, it's Rocky. Desperately trying to hide the fact that he's got half an hour of story and ninety minutes to fill, Stallone resorts to the old favourite, the montage (and we all know how they work thanks to Team America - Ed!]; after a heart to heart with Mrs Rocky, where she tells him he'll never win, off our hero drives into the night and we are treated to highlights of the series with a rock song playing over it, obviously with one eye on the soundtrack album. This is not the first, or the last, montage.

Rocky IV just may be the most predictable film in motion picture history, but it's curiously entertaining in its overstatement and daftness. We've watched Rocky as the underdog for three times now, so to pump him up to global significance was perhaps the only way forward. The American travels to the Soviet Union for a match with Drago, not for the world championship title but for... erm, for the sake of it, really. We get not one, but two montages of training, as Rocky, the man of the people, chops logs and jogs through snow while his Russian counterpart undergoes his scientific regime. Then it's time for the big confrontation as our hero, now joined by a worried Adrian, gears up for the fight of his life. Guess who wins? Yup. Not only that, but Rocky manages to turn the crowd in his favour and hilariously gets the Politburo applauding him. You get the impression that nobody took this as seriously as Stallone, but for Rocky the only way was down - a muted sequel was his next appearance until he rose again with his swan song in 2006. Remember him this way. Or pity the fool. Music by Vince DiCola.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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