Sylvester Stallone had made the Rocky franchise popular worldwide by the time this 1985 movie came out, but this was the first time the series truly went international. Starring the original cast, held by a truly astounding soundtrack and featuring some of the best boxing scenes in cinema history, Rocky IV was indeed a massive hit. In the movie, Rocky Balboa is a retired boxer after becoming world champion for the second time. Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (portrayed by the near 6 and a half foot tall Dolph Lungdren) comes to the United States to prove himself as a fighter and has his eye on challenging Rocky. Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) takes the challenge and enters with probably one of the greatest entrances for a fighter as Apollo Creed arrives dancing on a stage which is lowered into the ring with James Brown backing him performing ‘Living In America’ and sporting the flag of the United States over his boxing gear. Given one of the biggest entrances, Apollo is dealt the greatest blow of his life and is overpowered by Ivan Drago with Drago delivering the chilling line “If he dies…he dies”. Later, Rocky swears revenge and agrees to fight Ivan Drago. This time though, it won’t be in the US. It will be in Russia.
Rocky, for the first time in the series, is left to feel guilt for the death of a friend. A fight which should have never happened, Rocky feels he has to take the fight with Ivan Drago to help both himself and the USA. While in Russia, Ivan Drago is being given every advantage possible in his training to help him prepare for his fight with the Italian Stallion. Rocky, however, is actually training in a more isolated area and uses his snowy and mountainous surroundings to help him prepare. With the help of Paulie and Duke (Apollo Creed’s trainer), Rocky begins to get ready and is soon joined by his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) as another shot of inspiration. The soundtrack for the training montage is brilliant and is still part of pop culture today and a track by Survivor is a very inspirational and rather catchy track which will get you singing after a listen or two (or make you think of that advert for Fosters Radler’s). In an almost mirrored entrance to that of the fight in the US, Ivan Drago is given a big spectacular entrance in his native country while Rocky is left with nothing but boos from the crowd. The fight starts out like the match with Drago and Creed, Rocky takes a pounding and looks to be suffering in the early rounds. Eventually, Rocky manages a few punches into the mighty Drago and begins to weaken him and see him take an unlikely advantage after landing a hit which cuts Drago below the eye and giving him a spot to attack (and helps them to realise Drago is just a man). Drago, while taking a short break, says that Rocky is “…like a piece of iron” and is astounded by his resilience.
In the end, the hero takes on Drago till the fifteenth and final round where Rocky Balboa finally defeats the Russian with a knockout. This may be a usual “good vs. evil” story in many books, but I find it different. It is a movie which shows courage, revenge, guilt, mental suffering and what a man will go through for his friend and his country. It is a film which ultimately shows that a piece between two rather different nations can happen (but, I don’t wanna start being political). Sylvester Stallone shines in what is probably his best character he has ever portrayed, the last appearance of Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed is great as he goes out with a bang and given a spectacular scene to go out on. Talia Shire’s Adrian is sadly not given a lot to do in this film but she is still the person who keeps Rocky’s heart in the right place. Though he isn’t given many lines, Dolph Lungdren impresses as the giant Russian who is seen as not human for his actions and his lack of emotions. The inclusion of probably the greatest 80’s movie soundtrack makes this film an incredible experience and one that will get you cheering for Rocky Balboa for the whole of its run time. Get some popcorn, a few fizzy drinks and the soundtrack of the film to hear again afterwards and tuck in to this incredible movie!
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove.