Rocky V (1990) Review

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Review dedicated to Sage Stallone and Tommy ‘The Duke’ Morrison

ROCKY V

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Go for It!

Release Date- November 16th, 1990

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Sylvester Stallone

Director- John G. Avildsen

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Richard Gant, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison and Burgess Meredith

When looking up info on Rocky V more often than not it makes a list of worst sequels and by many fans of the series Rocky V is cited as the worst. Quite honestly I always found Rocky III to be the weakest of the series and in boxing terms I’d say Rocky V is a winner, but by split decision. Films are made for money and some more than others. The only reason Rocky V was made due to the major success of the previous 4. From 1976-1985, 4 Rocky films were made and all made well over 100-million except Rocky II and while this may not sound like a big deal, but with major differences in ticket prices 100-million back than was a much bigger deal and it seemed as if almost everyone in America were seeing the Rocky films. Sequels are never really needed and that even goes for the great ones and while Rocky 2-3 weren’t needed they at least did have a story, but by the 4th there wasn’t much left, but Rocky IV still turned out great, but Rocky V the results weren’t nearly as good even if I still liked it. Apparently even Stallone said Rocky V was made out of greed, but pointless or not I still enjoyed it and I really don’t think its as bad as most say. With Rocky V, Stallone attempts at going back to the roots of the series and tries to model the film after the original and even brings back John Avildsen who directed the original. Sly was unable to recapture that magic and spirit of the original despite his best efforts. Though Rocky Balboa was able to do just that and to some degree Rocky II, but that’s for another review. Starting with 4 the classic music by Bill Conti wasn’t present and that more or less continues here. Bill Conti actually didn’t score Rocky IV his music is played a tiny bit in a slightly different variation. Conti’s music was used early in Rocky V, but after that Rocky V uses more hip hop for the good portion of the film than the final act Conti’s score is present again. For me this was a major letdown as Conti’s music is quite iconic and a huge part of the success of the series. In Rocky IV while a bit disappointing, but made up for with some great songs.

Rocky V was produced on about a 42-million dollar budget and only pulled in about 40-million but what made this a massive flop was 3 of the first 4 again made over 100-million (except again Rocky II, which pulled in 85-million) and Rocky IV made 127-million, which was the highest grossing of the series (and still is) and with the 40-million Rocky V made that’s a major drop. Rocky V did make over 100-million world wide so it did turn a profit, but its still far below the past films in particular Rocky IV, which made over 300-million world wide. Who knows why this one failed and sure most will say it wasn’t very good, but unless you went to see it how could you know that? Films flop for various reasons and perhaps Sly simply went to the well one too many times. I remember when Rocky V was released and I remember seeing the posters and got really excited and at the time I wasn’t letdown in the least. Older, but maybe not so much wiser I don’t love Rocky V nearly as much as I once did, but I do think its a film a bit better than its reputation.

After returning home from Russia Rocky (Stallone) learns he has suffered brain damage from years of boxing making matters worse due to a crooked accountant Rocky and his family lose all their money and are forced to return to the tough streets of Philly. Rocky meets a young and upcoming fighter in Tommy Gunn (Morrison), but jealousy and greed come between them as Tommy turns on his mentor leading to a street fight.

The script by Stallone is actually fairly decent and while its nowhere near the level of the original there are some very good ideas presented. Really by this point there wasn’t anymore story to tell and the script suffers due to that. Characters while still interesting lack the impact they made in past films. However with that said I still think the script is decent enough. Rocky gets so caught up with Tommy he neglects his family and more importantly his son who really needs him at this point in his life.The point of the story is there are things more important than fame and fortune and the family aspect of the film is the strongest of the script. I liked how Sly attempted to take the series back to its roots, but like I said this film exists simply due to the success of the past 4 and it does more or less show. But I still feel the script is decent enough and even though Rocky IV was lacking in story it was mindless fun and since Rocky V aims to be more the flaws are more glaring. This isn’t one of Sly’s best written films, but in my opinion its middle of the road and despite the flaws still has something to offer. The script’s point is family, honer and integrity at the end of the day are far more important than fame and fortune and while a little sappy Rocky V still has a great message.

Rocky V was directed by John G. Avildsen who won an Oscar for directing the original, but 14-years later he couldn’t recapture the magic. John G. Avildsen attempts at re-creating the feel and look of the original, but it never fully works. While I think the original was the best but I think Stallone is the better director and Rocky V may have been better off with Sly directing. Avildsen delivers a fairly well paced film, but Rocky V misses the strong emotions of past installments. Certain parts can be a little silly and while by no means a great film, Avildsen still does decent, but like I said Rocky V may have been better off with Sly directing.

Sage Stallone in his first role is actually pretty good. He showed some potential but he had a very brief acting career. I’m a huge fan of Sage due to his Grindhouse Releasing company. Sage played a huge role in getting many horror and cult films in general released either through Grindhouse Releasing or with other companies. Many may not be aware, but Sage Stallone did a lot for horror and cult. Sage sadly passed away in 2012 and I greatly appreciate all that he did for horror and cult. Tommy Morrison was also fairly decent in his role as Tommy Gunn. I used to be a huge fan of Morrison as the only white heavyweight with a chance back in the 90s he was someone a young white kid could identify with. While later in life I did lose some respect for Tommy with some of his comments, but I was still a fan. Tommy of course contracted HIV back in the 90s though he later denied having it and sadly Tommy passed away September 2nd, 2013 at the age of 44. While his performance isn’t exactly Oscar worthy for a boxer in his first starring role he actually does a decent job.

The showdown between Tommy and Rocky ends up being a street fight and I thought it worked well, but a lot of people take issue with it, which I understand but it wasn’t a big deal to me. Overall Rocky V is flawed and I more than understand why so many dislike it and even Sly wasn’t happy with how it turned out. But I am a defender of Rocky V I enjoyed it flaws and all, but it wasn’t a good way to end the series and 16-years later the franchise would get a proper send off with Rocky Balboa.

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3 Responses to “Rocky V (1990) Review”

  1. Good write up! This is my least favorite – I didn’t like the way they dumbed him down to try and recreate the atmosphere of the first two. It just stunk of “reaching”. Then the big fight in the street kind of irritated me. And Tommy Morrison is from the state I live in so I’d had to read about how big he was going to be in the newspaper every day and that irritated me too. This had a lot going against it.

    Either way, I glanced at your Rocky Balboa score and salute you for giving it five out of five. I’m off to find some lunch and i’ll hit it later. I LOVE the next movie.

    • Totally get your points. Though the street fight didn’t really bother me. But I agree all the way on trying to recreate the feel of the first 2. It was a nice try and I do like the gritty look but it didn’t fully work.

      And Rocky not the smartest guy but was more educated in 3 & 4 and now back to where he was (though a little smarter).

      As for Tommy. As a young white that loved boxing he was more relatable to me (though Holyfield is my all time favorite fighter). Though later in life Tommy’s racist and homophobic comments turned me off to him I still was a fan.

      I get your points and actually agree but I still dig this one despite the flaws.

    • Oh and yeah Rocky Balboa was great and that was successful in recreating the feel of the original

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