Back at square one and back in the old neighbourhood, Rocky re-opens his ex-trainer Mickey's decrepit gym, his wife goes back part-time to the pet shop and their mollycoddled son (Sage Stallone, his real-life child) gets his lunch money lifted by the local pre-pubescent mafia. When a hot new fighter, Tommy "The Machine" Gunn asks Rocky to manage him things start looking up, but when the kid gets lured away by Richard Gant's flashy promoter, it all goes horribly wrong.
Some 14 years and $800 million later, Sylvester Stallone here finally closes the series that catapaulted him into the first division of male stars. Avildsen, who won an Oscar for the first and still best-regarded of the films, returns as director and puts Rocky through this rather grim tale of moral deception against the familiar backdrop of extras - Talia Shire, Burt Young and Burgess Meredith.
Returning from his unlikely title fight with Ivan Drago in Moscow (Rocky IV), Philly's favourite punchbag discovers that years of hitting other people's fists with his head have knocked something loose, and his fighting days are over. He's also greeted by financial disaster because, thanks to dumb brother-in-law Paulie, all his wealth has been syphoned off by a crooked accountant. This plot device out of the way, things get going. Simple dilemmas are at the heart of all the Rocky films and here it's "if he can't fight, what can he do to prove he's a man?" The answer of course is, er, fight.
That accepted, it's still good value, though the opening, with Rocky slumped in the shower room, rambling and incoherent, unable to control his shaking hands after the bruising bout with Drago, promises much more than the rest of the film ever delivers.
Bemused out of the ring and brutal in it, Rocky has always been an uncomfortable hero, and it says something for Stallone's skill as a writer that he's been able to keep him going this long. Given the restrictions of the formula, Rocky V is a fitting — even graceful — way to finally hang up the gloves.