Written by / 12/20/2015 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

STALLONE WEATHERS IN ROCKY III

year: 1982
Apollo CREED, played by Carl Weathers, whose bastard son is now fighting in theaters and receiving critical praise, gets credit for doing in ROCKY III what Sylvester Stallone's title character does for phony professional wrestling: legitimizes it... Following a collage of scenes, ranging from a Muppet Show appearance to our boy finally getting his lines down for a commercial, Rocky has a photo-op match with Hulk Hogan that becomes genuinely bloody, which, despite being completely far-fetched, doesn't lack some classic camp value. When Burt Young's Paulie smashes Hogan's Thunderlips with a stool it's something to marvel...

Beach Rock
And speaking of Rocky's bum brother-in-law, after witnessing glimpses of what we later learn are a dozen fights to sustain and establish Rocky as heavyweight champion without having to really give his all, the actual opening credits occur without the dynamic Bill Conti victory score during what feels like the original two "art house street centered boxing" films: as a plundered Paulie leaves the same old bar, walks sullenly down a grungy Philly boulevard and, in a jealous, drunken rage, busts a Rocky pinball machine, leading to a glorious scene in a jailhouse parking lot between Stallone and Young's polar opposites, both always bringing out the best of the worst in each other...

Apollo Creed
Leading to a glimpse inside the kind of plush lazy mansion life our hero exists in until eventually, when he finally agrees... after some serious goading and a knock at his beloved wife... to fight the number one, intentionally-avoided contender Clubber Lang, played by the 80's-dated but still nefariously agile and worthy opponent, Mr. T: at this point it's both difficult and fun to watch our once unbreakable hero going through a lazy, half-assed training session surrounded by babes and cameras before being knocked-out while scene-stealing Mickey, played by Burgess Meredith, buys the farm and catapults Rocky into a navel-gazing purgatory that only former rival Apollo Creed can, and does, free him from... by entering the very place in downtown L.A. where Apollo himself trained from the bottom, up.

Thank God Paulie is along for hilarious comic relief that isn't forced, and the training, back to sweaty basics, highlighted by a nearly-impossible task to morph the brawler into an actual "dancing" fighter, provides soulful camaraderie in perhaps the only vehicle within the series that everyone can fully agree on. ROCKY 3 not only still completely holds up in the modern sense but wields a flowing, audience-friendly aesthetic replacing the grainy, utter realism of the first two while holding its own strength, story and structure while the usually Rock-blocking Adrian actually talks her man into the ring this time, where he takes part in one of the roughest bouts in the franchise.

RATING: ****1/2
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