I expected to go all Scrooge on Sylvester Stallone's sixth round as Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion from Philly who boxed his way into popular and Oscar glory with the first and best Rocky in 1976. And make no mistake, there is much here to cringe at. Thirty years later, the sixty-year-old Stallone, as writer, director and, has put himself back in the ring with a champ — this time he's played by light-heavyweight Antonio Tarver. It's an exhibition match in Vegas, for charity, and Stallone looks damn fit for a geezer. It's his screenplay that needs major toning. No sappy cliché goes untapped as Rocky runs a restaurant named after his dead wife, Adrian, whose grave he visits daily. He takes guff from pal Paulie (Burt Young) and worries about his son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), who helps him prep for the big fight. It's a brutal regimen. But Rocky has "a beast inside him." Just when you're ready to puke, the old Bill Conti theme ("Gonna Fly Now") kicks in — are you feeling it? — Stallone steps in the ring and every day is Christmas. All together now: Rock-ee! Rock-ee!
From The Archives Issue 340: April 2, 1981