Rocky IV

Year: 1985
Production Co: Chartoff/Winkler Productions
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Producer: Robert Chartoff/Irwin Winkler
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Talia Shire, Brigitte Nielsen, James Brown
It's not just boxing. It's war.

But listen to Rocky's (Stallone) inspirational speech after the final round - 'out here were two guys killin' each other. But I guess... that's better... than 20 million. Durin' this... fight... I seen a lot of changin'. It's a plea for brotherhood and the hand of peace, isn't it?

Of course it is, as log as America (Rocky) stands victorious after crushing the Soviet Union, with Drago (Lundgren) lying defeated on the mat. There's the real subtext.

So alongside Firefox and a myriad other Red Scare films, it's less a story than a series of obtuse symbolic images. While Rocky trains for his fight with good old fashioned hard work, by lifting heavy farm equipment and helping a stranded farmer lift his carriage out of the snow, super-athlete Drago (Lundgren) trains with scary futuristic technology, doesn't even flinch when they inject special chemicals into him and runs around ominously-lit indoor running track.

Abandoning the entire rest of the franchise and everything it was about, things have quietened down for Rocky and Adrian (Shire). He's now the reigning champ, rich and on top of the world and still friends with Apollo (Weathers) after the latter bought him back in from the cold to fight Clubber Lang in Rocky 3.

When the sports world becomes abuzz with the Russian boxing behemoth Ivan Drago, Apollo fights him in an exhibition match, wanting the glory and cheering one last time - a bad mistake as Drago promptly smashes his hopelessly ill-prepared opponent to a pulp and kills him.

What's the obvious solution? Rocky kneeling with a bloodied Apollo in his arms, staring balefully at Drago, who stares just as unflinchingly back, the camera zooming in one both pairs of eyes and promising a showdown that's bigger than US/Soviet mutually assured destruction.

A rock montage later and Rocky is on his way to the heart of the Evil Empire to fight Drago (it's not about money') and the stage is set, creaky Soviet accents and clichés galore.

You're just as likely after reading all that to believe I didn't like this movie. No way - during my first ever cinema viewing I was completely taken in, and if I ever watch it again I'll be the same, just like Rocky's son and his friends at home watching it on TV. Lundgren is a monster, towering over everyone else, the gloves looking like mittens on his tiny hands and his every perfectly aimed punch sounding like a cannon-blast.

But he didn't know Rocky ('he is not human... he is like a piece of iron') like we do, and considering there's no blood, nudity or trashy car chases, this is one of the cleanest guilty pleasure you can have with a movie.

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