THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
written by Dominick Cappello
Propaganda at its best. What more could “The Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa possibly accomplish? Oh, I don’t know. How about single handedly ending the Cold War? “Rocky IV” somehow topped “Rocky III” in terms of excess. After “Rocky III,” Sylvester Stallone finally had a none-Rocky hit. That being “First Blood,” where he played an embittered Vietnam veteran named John Rambo. In 1985, both Rocky and Rambo went to war with the communists in “Rocky IV” and “Rambo: First Blood, Part II.”
I grew up with “Rocky IV,” so it took me a long time to realize how insane this film is. At Paulie’s birthday party, Rocky and Adrian give him a robot. A robot!? What an awesome year for pop culture 1985 was. The good times are soon spoiled when Ivan Drago, an amateur boxer from the Soviet Union played by Dolph Lundgren, arrives in the United States. He barely speaks in the entire film. His wife, played by Brigitte Nielsen, and others do his talking for him. They request an exhibition with Rocky, but it is Apollo Creed who steps up to the plate. Apollo claims to have qualms with the politics of the Soviet Union, but it is obvious that he is looking for an excuse to regain the spotlight he sorely misses. Rocky will be in Apollo’s corner for the fight, returning the favor from “Rocky III.”
The exhibition is held in Las Vegas. East meets west. James Brown performs “Living in America” as Apollo makes his entrance. Apollo is decked out as Uncle Sam, just as he was in the first film, an indication that he is not prepared for the fight and is only concerned with showmanship. He taunts Drago, then is badly beaten in the first round. So much so that Rocky is reluctant to allow him to go out for the second round. As has been his Achilles heal in the past, Apollo’s pride gets in the way. He demands that Rocky not throw in the towel under any circumstances. Apollo nods to his wife before the final round of his life begins. Is he nodding just to pacify her or is he saying goodbye? Rocky watches in horror, struggling with the decision to throw in the towel, as Drago beats Apollo to death. Rocky and Drago then have a legendary stare-down as Drago says “If he dies, he dies.” Anyone else get chills?
Rocky vacates the world championship, so he can face Drago in an unsanctioned match in Russia. The date of the fight is December 25th. Adrian is not happy with Rocky’s decision. She tells him that he can’t win just like Mickey did before Rocky lost the title to Clubber Lang. Rocky needs to blow off some steam, so he goes cruising. A montage, set to “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper, recaps the first three films and the first half of the fourth, so everyone should be caught up. Rocky, Paulie, and Tony travel to an isolated cabin. They are under the surveillance of Russian agents. Unlike “Rocky II” and “Rocky III,” Rocky is able to focus on his training before the obligatory inspirational words from Adrian scene, but after she arrives, he is able to kick into a higher gear as “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty plays. “Family Guy” has parodied “Rocky IV” training montages so often that the writers have argued on DVD audio commentaries about which montage was parodied and in which episode. Drago is shown being given injections while training, so the implication is that he is using steroids or some other performance enhancing drug.
Rocky is in enemy territory for the climatic fight whereas Drago is praised as a hero by his countrymen. Rocky is dominated for the first two rounds, but rallies as a montage akin to what was featured in the first two films (Man, this movie has a lot of montages) takes the viewers into the latter part of the fourteenth round. This was the only film in the saga to not have a score written by Bill Conti. The composer was Vince DiCola. Ironic how Vince DiCola also wrote the score for “Transformers: The Movie” when “Rocky IV” had a robotic-like villain and an actual robot. By the way, the robot is babysitting Robert Balboa on Christmas Day while both his parents are away in Russia. The robot is even wearing a Santa hat. Slowly but surely, Rocky wins the hearts of his Russian detractors as he turns the tide of the fight. The dignitaries from the Soviet Union are not happy that an American is receiving such adulation, but Drago defies them, perhaps inspired by Rocky’s courage. Drago even shows Rocky a measure of respect heading into the last round. Rocky overcomes the odds (as he usually does) and wins via KO.
Rocky is draped in the American flag as he gives a victory speech, pleading for hostilities between the east and the west to come to an end. Despite the many Golden Raspberry Awards this film received, it was the highest grossing film in the series and highest grossing sports film up until that point. So, here’s an instance where critics snubbed a film which was embraced by audiences. USA! USA! USA!
– Dr. Jelly