Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) hits the nail on the head when he answers the put down ‘Was that something from the 80s?’ fired by his foe Mason Dixon (real life light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver) with the retort ‘More like the 70s, actually.’ Forget all the numerical sequels (admittedly, this is difficult as there are flashbacks to all the Rocky films except the dire Rocky V), for this is the natural heir and successor to the original.
Balboa lives on past glories. People only come to the restaurant he owns to listen to Rocky tell old fight stories. His son (Milo Ventimiglio) despises dad for giving him the Balboa name, a tag that he’ll never be able to live up to. Rocky is still grieving over Adrian’s death. He is a lonely man, looking for a connection, something to explain life to him. He is given a bone when a computer-simulated fight says that Rocky would beat the incumbent champ in a fight and an exhibition bout is arranged. The boxing continues to stay on the ropes as he attempts to strike a friendship with an old flame (Geraldine Hughes) and maintain his relationship with his hilarious trainer Paulie (Burt Young).
Indeed, the problems facing Rocky are the same as those that Sylvestor Stallone must deal with: a once great career, a slide into obscurity and a return to the scene of your greatest achievement to relight a flame. That Stallone succeeds is down to a script that matches those he wrote in his heyday (Rocky, Staying Alive, First Blood and Paradise Alley), which taps into his own real-life experiences and is full of brilliant one-liners. It’s way better than even diehard Rocky fans could have hoped for.