Having gone my whole life without seeing any Rocky movies (boxing just seems so primitive), I decided to finally partake in an American cinematic staple by marathoning all of them. I know even many Rocky fans haven't seen more than a few films in, so it was kind of overkill to go all in like that, but I couldn't resist the story of a man who was derided for dating a supposedly (but not really) "retarded" woman while shockingly no one points out that Rocky is clearly the one with a mental disability all along.
I know most people think the franchise gets worse the further it goes, but for my money, it finally gets good at Rocky IV. Rocky was whatever, II and III were all sorts of dull, but 4… 4 gets crazy campy. Before his fight with the Russian heavyweight Ivan Drago, Apollo Creed does a ridiculous patriotic dance routine as James Brown performs "Living in America" that so greatly encapsulates American excess and arrogance…
… and then in the subsequent fight, Apollo dies. At first I was surprised that a Rocky film would be so critical of American culture, but by the end, the movie has turned 100% pro-USA again.
You see, Rocky wants to avenge Apollo's death by fighting Ivan Drago, and the Russians schedule an unsanctioned fight on December 25 (because Commies have no respect for Christmas!) At first, Drago kicks Rocky's ass, but Rocky is scrappy and stages a comeback. By the end, the all-Russian crowd that was booing Rocky begins chanting his name and calling for American dominance.
It already doesn't seem believable, but then Rocky gives a speech that wins over even the Russian government officials AND THE COLD WAR IS OVER!! No kidding, Rocky has finally brought Russia and the United States together by knocking out their most prized fighter. Sometimes you need to kick some ass to promote peace!
Rocky V meanwhile is so ghetto, it's great. Rocky's no longer a boxer, he's a father. All his son wants is a little bit of attention, but Rocky only makes time for another aspiring boxer who wants to be his protege. Once Rocky's mulleted protege becomes successful, however, he ditches Rocky for money, fame, and babes.
Rather than reconnecting with his son, though, Rocky is fixated on the protege who used him, and the tense feelings culminate in the usual BIG FINAL FIGHT that the franchise is known for. Except, for the first time, instead of happening in a boxing ring, it's just a street fight that happens outside of a bar. As usual, Rocky almost loses, but the aged star pulls it together to knock out the kid he's been mentoring.
As far as cinematic street brawls go, it's not quite They Live good, but it's still pretty funny that the writers chose to end the five film story arc not with a championship or an act of heroism, but with a drunken, petty feud that the cops come to break up.
So glad I stuck it out with you 'til the bitter end, Rocky.