Looking to lead a peaceful life away from the boxing ring, Rocky Balboa finds himself down on his luck. So he accepts an offer of a rematch with his great rival Apollo Creed, against his wife Adrians better judgement.
After the Oscar wining glory of the original Rocky movie, Sylvester Stallone took it upon himself to be the champion of a set of ongoing, and increasingly demented sequels. With the first one, however, he was still concerned with keeping credibility to the fore, ostensibly remaking the first movie — the rise from the gutter to aspiring champion — with the added fillip of a victory rather than heroic defeat at the end.
Which means the film, written again by Stallone, has to contrive away to put Rocky, played again by Stallone, at the bottom of those symbolic steps. With often lurid levels of sentiment, we find our favourite monosyllabic pugilist hanging up his gloves as his wife, Adrian (the winsome Talia Shire), is now pregnant. Rocky also has a dodgy eye, and really shouldn’t even be contemplating a return to the ring. But, hell, this is Rocky II, where else are we headed but the big showdown (albeit the same one) with Carl Weathers’ sneery Apollo Creed?
Which means the second half of the film, directed with rougher, less engaging force by Stallone, will centre around the big man training his way back to fighting fitness with raspy Burgess Meredith geeing him along. There is inevitably a crude excitement in the underdog having his day, all those ticker-tape montages of the ursine Stallone’s growing physique interrupted by the whinging Adrian begging him not cease his foolish ideas (you occasionally get the ungentlemanly wish he would just deck her). By the punishing heft of the big fight, there is the clear hint that the series will soon plunge into an unpalatable patriotic fervour. For now, though, with its leathery texture of working class Philly-life it felt enough like reality, which counts for a lot
The first sequel managed to retain some pathos and credibility.