Review Detail

9.2 11 10
FanFix October 21, 2012 5892
(Updated: July 15, 2020)
Overall rating
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Visual Editing
Much credit to LastSurvivor for rescuing this film and giving us a version I'm happy to watch with the rest of the series. John G. Avildsen (director of this film and the original Rocky) actually released a workprint "director's cut" online that addresses most of the same issues that LS identified here. It keeps getting taken down, so I can't watch to confirm if it's better or not, but you can see the director reworked the end fight, the training montages, the music, etc. Stallone also famously changed both the ending and his portrayal of the brain damage while filming. All of these are addressed and improved by this fanedit.

Basically, Rocky fans fall into two camps: those that really love III and IV but don't care much about the others, and those that really appreciate the more drama-oriented films in the series. Rocky III and IV are about 60% montage, and while they're great fun, it's hard to say that they're genuinely moving. Rocky V tried to come back to the original's Oscar-winning roots, but lapsed into a studio cash-in of a mess. What this edit does great is strip away a lot of the trendy ideas afflicted on Rocky V and allow the drama at its core to shine. It's one of the most realistic and depressing films in the series, incorporating tons of real-world issues that boxers eventually face in their career. Made in 1990, it actually brilliantly satirizes Don King and his Tyson-beating stooge, Buster Douglas. Stallone's script calls out the twisted business behind modern boxing, the politics of getting big fights, the engineering of fight records, the health-destroying injuries, the broken families. Almost everything that happens in the film ended up happening to Mike Tyson a few years later. The drama in this film is the great strong point, and the scenes between Adrian and Rocky have a chance to rise above and really reach the audience now.

It's not a perfect edit (for me), though. There are a couple of continuity issues created by the removal of scenes, for one. While the "one year later" on-screen title attempts to smooth over the change in actors for Rocky Jr., it's actually a 5 year age difference from Rocky IV! This could've been fixed with a couple more time tags, like skipping ahead 2 years when Rocky decides to open his gym, and another year or so when he starts training Tommy. Sage Stallone does actually look older by the final third of the film, when he's fully rebelling and wearing an earring. Cutting out the scene when he starts doing that makes it a little less obvious what he's doing though, and means Rocky's joke about the earring at the end of the film largely misses. Rocky Jr.'s dig at Rocky about "watching out for scams" also misses because the scene where Rocky walked him to school is removed, so he never says that. We also miss the line he references several times later about him and his son promising to remain tight. Also, this edit of the final fight ends up making it largely one-sided...Rocky hits Tommy roughly 200 times and never seems in real danger. It's a bit anti-climactic. Partially re-instating these scenes would better support the parallel stories of the 'two sons', and make Rocky Jr. seem like less of a needy whiner.

All that is not nearly as important as what the edit does right, though. The new music choices fit very well, and that alone is reason enough for this to replace the original. Not only the addition of cheesy '80s rock, but also more Conti music, and a saxy Gonna Fly Now reprise if I'm not mistaken. I didn't get why the pencil artwork was used for the film, until I rewatched and remembered his son becomes an artist. It's actually perfect then, in that the theme of this film is legacy and family, and Rocky focusing on his family instead of his boxing/boxers. However, I would've preferred the son's actual art in the film, particularly the lovely picture of Rocky and Adrian. This becomes the core of this movie for me, a return to the first film. The boxing should be almost secondary. Given how Rocky is dealing with what happens with his son and Adrian in the next film, Rocky Balboa, this film actually becomes stronger for how it sets this up. These scenes with Adrian are now really touching in context, and I wish that were the cover/dvd menu, rather than focusing on Rocky as the boxer.

All in all though, this is a much improved film that splits the difference between the two camps of Rocky fans. It's got lots of heart and personal drama, but it's also short and full of action montages and '80s rock. I don't think it's going to wow fans of either Rocky IV or the original, but it has now secured its place in the series.

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