When super-fit Soviet boxer Ivan Drago actually kills Apollo Creed in the ring, Rocky Balboa is wracked with guilt as he should have thrown the towel in and saved his friend. To make some kind of amends, he challenges the arrogant Commie pugilist to a match on his own soil.
This is the one where the Rocky series threw in the towel on the credibility, even for this series of increasingly daft boxing fantasies. From numbers one to three (with one being a genuinely decent tale of sporting triumph) you still held onto the notion they were happening within a real universe. For some reason, Sylvester Stallone (who was now starring, writing, directing and not listening to good sense) decided it was high time that America’s favourite unintelligible sports hero should fight the Cold War.
On closer inspection, the film seems to be more concerned with becoming some kind of homoerotic classic than a great nationalistic parable, the amount of time Stallone’s camera lavishes on the bulging landscapes of his and the robotic Dolph Lundgren’s bodies. The training sequence for Rocky, a staple of his micro-genre, tuned to the exhausting vibes of light rock and set in the Russian wilds (rather than good ol’ Philly) involves him chopping wood and lifting trees so his biceps can reach the size of cannonballs and his veins stick out like grass snakes. It’s enough to put you off the gym for life, if you hadn’t otherwise.
The jingoism is blindingly awful, but by the time of the showdown, the film has descended into an unaware parody of itself. As Rocky enters the ring in his stars’n’stripes shorts, and the crowd of oppressed masses will soon change sides as, after taking his usual pounding, our man is inspired to fight back because he has the heart. Quite what this all means about the heart America is hard to fathom, but maybe Sly was a highly prophetic soul as communism would end up losing on points anyway. Or as his laughable turd of a script has it: “Russians are evil. Rocky will hurt them.”
Ridiculous jingoistic nonsense