Rocky Balboa Sylvester Stallone

Five sequels would lead anybody to believe that the human punching bag known as Rocky Balboa should just stay down. But the 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone believes his iconic boxer still has a few rounds left in him against the world heavyweight champ. Yes, it seems as desperate and as implausible as the last three Rockys, but Rocky Balboa will surprise you.

Picking up 16 years after the abysmal Rocky V, Balboa finds Rocky mourning the loss of his beloved Adrian and leading a humble life as a proud restaurant owner in the slums of Philadelphia. Still by his side is the cantankerous Paulie (Burt Young), who on the other hand is struggling to deal with old age. Rocky’s retirement comes to a full stop though when he’s placed in a hypothetical computer-generated match against the undefeated yet unpopular heavyweight champion Mason "the Line” Dixon (played by real-life fighter Antonio Tarver), and comes out on top as the victor. This convinces Dixon’s hype men to seek out a charity bout with the 50-something Rocky, who is cautious but game to jump back in the ring.

Of course, it’s this match that throws this movie into implausibility — clearly the in his prime Dixon would quite literally murder the long in the tooth Balboa — but this move brings this final sequel full circle to the Oscar-winning beginning, where it ended histrionically. Stallone (who wrote and directed this film) exhibits great precision in establishing parallels between the two films, updating the beaten setting (i.e., the pet shop is still there but has been abandoned) and revitalising minor characters, such as the first fighter he ever faced onscreen and more importantly, Marie, the pre-pubescent girl he walked home as a nice gesture, who now becomes his nebulous new girlfriend.

As a farewell to this popular character, Stallone has done an admirable job, refreshing the attributes we love about this simple but stalwart underdog and letting go in a manner that’s far from believable but still entertaining. This is the film that he needed to make.

(MGM / Sony)