He could've stopped the fight. He could've saved his best friend's life. But now, the only thing he can't do is walk away...
Rocky IV is a 1985 sports film directed by Sylvester Stallone, written by Sylvester Stallone, produced by United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and distributed by MGM/UA Entertainment Company. The film stars Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire. The film was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the fourth film in the Rocky franchise. It was preceded by Rocky III and succeeded by Rocky V.
"I must break you." -Ivan Drago
During the Cold War, the Russians have sent over superstar boxer Ivan Drago to show the Americans that they are better. Apollo Creed takes the opportunity to bounce back into the ring...but it costs him his life. Now, Rocky Balboa must face Drago in Russia, knowing that he could meet the fate of his best friend.
First off, this is one of the better stories in the Rocky franchise. It is definitely the darkest of the series, and they really bring out the emotions when Apollo is killed. I think that this has some great hidden messages about the Cold War, but they make it subtle enough that kids won't realize and can just enjoy the film as it is. This is the most determined that we've ever seen Rocky, and it's exciting. We've had hopeful and heartfelt Rocky, defeated and sad Rocky, and this time, we get tough and determined Rocky.
Ivan Drago is a compelling villain. He's not like Clubber Lang, who is a super annoying idiot that talks way too much and has a major ego. Drago is different. He is the T-800 of the Rocky franchise. He is this brutal, emotionless machine that just destroys people and will not stop until he wins. He isn't a great character, as he barely talks, but they made him a good opponent for Rocky.
I liked what they did with the characters in this. Like I mentioned before, this is great to see Rocky as a true badass for the first time. He is just focused on winning and beating Drago to make sure that Apollo didn't die in vain. They made his character arc in this film the best in the series, and it is terrific. Adrian is against Rocky fighting, as usual, but she actually loses faith in him because of what Drago does to Apollo. They continued on with the less crazy Paulie in this film, but it felt more earned in Rocky IV than in Rocky III, because this story is much darker and much more serious than anything that we've seen in the previous three.
The acting is pretty good. Stallone brings some Rambo into his Rocky performance as we just see the Italian Stallion dissolve into this new part of himself that has to win and avenge his friend. I think that even though Dolph Lundgren doesn't really have to do much as Drago, he does a good job of being blank-faced throughout and doesn't really react to anything. He has this monstrous figure and is so intimidating, so good casting by the crew. Talia Shire brings more emotion into Adrian than we've seen before, and she is much more vocal about not wanting Rocky to fight. Burt Young is fine. He doesn't really bring anything new to the table, which isn't a bad thing. He's been good just doing his normal thing in the previous films, so it works here as well. Carl Weathers brings Apollo to a Clubber Lang type level with the amount of absurdity and ego that he puts into this performance. But I think that Apollo has always had a certain amount of cockiness, and Weathers puts it on full display in this.
I liked the setting that they used for the training montage. It sits consistent with the tone of the movie, and it also looks pretty awesome. That last shot of Rocky on top of the mountain after the training montage shows that they really have built up a good budget for this film and used it to make these smaller films much, much bigger. The isolated mountain setting is perfect for Rocky's mood throughout the film. It is a place where he can't focus on anything besides beating Drago.
This fight also feels very satisfying. You want to see Drago go down and you really almost need Rocky to win, and when he does, it feels great. They made this the most intense fight out of all the other fights, because Drago is dangerous. Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang were cocky and better than the Stallion, but Ivan Drago is a dangerous opponent. You can feel every punch that Drago hits Rocky with, and it makes your heart just pound during the final sequence.
This is the turning point in the Rocky franchise. This is when it went from serious, realistic drama to utter camp. They make Apollo's death a little too dramatic, and they make Drago seem like an unstoppable force. They act like he's basically Superman or the Hulk when he is fighting. Apollo's death is admittedly ridiculous. That doesn't make it a bad plot beat, but it feels uneven from a franchise that has delivered such rich emotions and stories that are realistic and not over the top.
I also think that Apollo's death scene is not shot well at all. It's about a full minute of slow-mo, and it looks horrible. The slow-motion looks like stop action, and the combination of Apollo falling, the towel falling, and Apollo's wife screaming just looks comical. I don't know why they used slow-motion for this scene, but they did, and it is absolutely terrible.
I didn't really understand why the Russians started cheering for Rocky when he started winning, while the Americans continued to cheer for Apollo when Drago began beating the crap out of him. I think that it was meant to be some kind of symbolism that Rocky can be liked wherever he goes, but it was a bad kind of symbolism.
I think that the scene where Rocky is driving around in his car and having flashbacks to the previous films is strange. I get that he feels horrible about Apollo's death, but I think they were trying to do some kind of nostalgia to the other movies. It is kind of pointless and weird. I don't understand why they would do this in the middle of the movie, but they did.
Despite some weird scenes and a complete tonal shift from the rest of the franchise, Rocky IV brings out strong emotions, a tough Rocky, and great acting.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 7+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Released on November 27, 1985
Rated PG for boxing violence and action, language, mild thematic elements
1 hour and 31 minutes
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Talia Shire as Adrian Balboa
Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago
Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed
Burt Young as Paulie Pennino
Brigitte Nielsen as Ludmilla Drago
Tony Burton as Duke