Rocky IV

Thanks to my friend Greg Kuppinger, who had the nerve to tell me Rocky IV was on TV, I spent too much of this evening in front of the television, too little writing my book.

Recognizing this isn’t unchartered territory, Rocky IV might be the worst beloved movie of all time. There are actually people (ahem, the wife) who consider IV the best of the six Rocky flicks. Which is akin to ranking Silver Spoons as The Rickster’s finest hour.

In short, Rocky IV is shit. Liquid shit. I just watched the final 15 minutes, so let’s stick to that frame. First off, no way Rocky Balboa fights in communist Russia in the mid-1980s and wins over the crowd. No. Chance. In. Hell. While wearing American flag shorts, no less. Uh-uh. Not possible.

Second, if Rocky and Drago are the world’s two best heavyweights, how come neither man knows how to block a punch? Seriously, many the filmmakes could have at least given a nod to defense. Because all the fight scenes are is one landed blow after another after another after another. Both pugilists last 15 rounds while landing 100 percent of their shots.

Third, I love how—after three previous installments—the producers and directors no longer have any idea what to do with Talia Shire at the end of the film. She was best served in the original Rocky, when Balboa greets her after the most bloody bout of his life with, “Where’s your hat?” (a genuinely brilliant line). But how many hats can a chick lose? At IV’s conclusion, she’s just there, smiling sorta blankly.

Which, of course, isn’t as bad as Tony Burton, aka “Duke”—the cornerman Rocky inherits from Apollo Creed. In Rocky III, Apollo and Duke keep repeating “Eye of the Tiger! Eye of the Tiger!” because in RockyWorld mantras win fights. Now, with Apollo in Boxer Heaven, we need a new slogan. So Duke keeps saying “No pain! No pain! No pain!”—even as the Rock is a bloodied pile of puss and sweat. Is Burton a good actor? We’ll never know.

It’s been 25 years since Rocky IV hit theatres, so my memory’s a bit foggy. But I believe I was genuinely disappointed—13-years old and longing for Clubber Lang to kick some ass. Drago was, by comparison, a dull foil—a stereotypical unemotional Russian brute who snarled and glared.

Plus, who wants to sit through that five-minute James Brown solo?

PS: Almost forgot the “If I can change, you can change …” speech. I mean, dear God. First, you just fought 15 rounds sans defense. You could barely stand. And now, five minutes later, you’re JFK? Second, the fake Gorbachev—sans head spot—standing and applauding. Third, wait, I just vomited my cereal.

10 thoughts on “Rocky IV”

  1. When Rocky IV is starting on cable I always wait for Drago’s line after he finishes Apollo: “If he dies, he dies”. Always cracks me up. Then I change the channel.

    IV is awful, but I give it a pass considering how bad Rocky V is.

  2. Rocky IV is the only one of the series I saw, and I was forced. Can you blame me for not seeing any others after watching this one?

  3. Pearlman, you commie bastard.

    Rocky IV is awful, but in a good way. It’s so completely ridiculous that it’s entertaining. Not to mention it’s delightfully dated.

    “Plus, who wants to sit through that five-minute James Brown solo?”

    Me. I love that scene so much.

  4. Rocky V is by far the worst… but as far as the no-defense thing you mentioned in IV, I remember this being pretty common for all the Rocky films, no? I even remember asking my dad about it years ago.

    “Daddy, why isn’t he blocking anything?”

    It could have been relegated to Rocky IV, but I seem to remember otherwise.

  5. I’m sorry. This goes back to your insight on how espn, the day Reggie Bush gave back the Heisman, only showed footage and talked about the incident. That’s a sports network and All Rocky Movies Are For Entertainment. Did you really think you were going to watch another installment of Raging Bull? Heck, even The Champ ( you brought up Ricky Schroeder).
    I really look forward to your articles and tweets so don’t take this wrong. But why the absolute all the time. Rocky was all about entertainment.

  6. Figures a SOCIALIST like yourself would take the time to dump on this movie. It’s a reminder that American exceptional-ism is here to stay and your ideology died over 20 years ago. Maybe since you can’t stand to see a Great American singer and entertainer sing “Livin’ In America” then it’s time for you to move to your beloved SOCIALIST Spain.

  7. Rocky IV is terribly dated and silly as hell, but still has some awesome lines.

    Fave Duke line (in this scene above around the 8 min mark) “throw the damn towel!!” with that face…priceless.

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