Every now and again, a film comes along that challenges us to believe our own imagination, then becomes a successful series of films and Rocky definitely falls into that category.
Young upstart Sylvester Stallone made his name with this extremely popular, groundbreaking movie about the likeable Italian no-hoper, writing it and playing the titular role, although at this stage he decided against directing it, which he took on in the subsequent movies of the incredibly popular franchise.
This film was simply the best of the whole series for several reasons, although the later ones were not bad (barring one, which I bet we all know which that is) this one was clearly the outstanding offering and not just because I disagree with any writer directing his own work.
The story begins in late November 1975 with Rocky knocking out Spider Ricco in the ring at a local church hall in Philadelphia, giving a glimpse of what life is like for our hero, before he is given a dream shot at the World Heavyweight Title against Apollo Creed.
The beauty about this film is that Rocky is really living like a proper fighter in a rough neighbourhood, scraping a living as a debt collector and just generally being a down and out with not much, if anything going for him. His apartment is exactly how you would imagine a man like him living, with the added comfort of some exotic animals named cuff and link.
The difficulty for the film is making Rocky an absolute snow white underdog, while also convincing its audience that he actually does have a chance against the most dangerous fighter in the world.
His background is well established across a few scenes of this thoroughly engaging film and, just to add to his character, the scenes between him and Adrian, particularly the scene when they consummate their budding relationship are superbly acted, with the two personalities plainly laid bare for all to see that they are absolutely perfectly matched for each other.
There are some beautiful scenes, on both ends of the scale, which help to establish characters like Paulie, Apollo and Mickey and leave you wanting more.
The scene with the news reporter, the scene when Mickey visits Rocky at home and especially the scene at the fight venue on the night before the fight are expertly handled. When Rocky tells the promoter that the picture of him is wrong, the reply he receives is a very clever piece of writing and seemingly sets the tone for what is meant to be a walkover for the undefeated champion.
At the end of the fight, the closure of the film is simply perfect, without overdoing the heroics from Rocky, it is a nod towards him going back to the simple life that he had before he got his completely unexpected title shot, to which he alludes in a conversation with his best friend Paulie earlier on in the movie.
Where the film does miss out is its failure to introduce us to Mackalie Green who is meant to be Apollo’s challenger before breaking a bone in his hand, which then gives Rocky his opportunity. An appearance from Green, maybe to give Rocky some advice and/or at ringside would have maybe given the film even more of an edge, although the arrival of the legendary ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier certainly was a great coup for the movie.
We all know this was a great movie at the time of its release back in the day, however I would definitely say, if you haven’t seen it for a while, it’s definitely worth watching again, just to prove it’s relevance even now nearly half a century later (I hope that doesn’t make you feel too old).