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Rocky Balboa (film)

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Rocky Balboa is a 2006 film written and directed by Sylvester Stallone who also stars as underdog boxer Rocky Balboa. It is the sixth and final film in the Rocky series, which began with the Oscar-winning Rocky thirty years earlier in 1976. The film portrays Balboa in retirement, a widower living in Philadelphia, and the owner and operator of a local Italian restaurant called "Adrian's", named after his late wife.

Rocky Balboa was produced as the final sequel to the Academy Award-winning Rocky. According to Stallone, he was "negligent" in the production of Rocky V and it left him, and many of the fans, disappointed with the presumed end of the series. Stallone also mentioned that the storyline of Rocky Balboa parallels his own struggles and triumphs in recent times.[1]

In addition to Stallone, the film stars Burt Young as Paulie, Rocky's brother-in-law, and real-life boxer Antonio Tarver as Mason Dixon, the heavyweight division champion in the film. Boxing promoter Lou DiBella plays himself in the movie and acts as Dixon's promoter in the film. It also features the return of two minor characters from the original movie into larger roles in this film: Marie, the young woman that Rocky attempts to steer away from trouble; and Spider Rico, the first opponent that Rocky is shown fighting in the original movie. The film also holds many references to people and objects from previous installments in the series, especially the first.

The film was released on December 20, 2006 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios. It exceeded box office expectations and critical reaction was positive, with several critics also calling it the "best since the original."[2] The film has made $35,622,998 in DVD sales, bringing its total film gross to $191,342,703.[3]


Template:Plot In present-day Philadelphia, Rocky, now retired from boxing for roughly 20 years, is living in a row house in Kensington (a deleted scene reveals that his brother-in-law has been living with him). His wife Adrian has died (due to what Rocky ambiguously describes as "woman cancer") in 2002, his son Robert has moved out on his own, and Rocky has retired to become owner of a small but successful Italian restaurant named Adrian's. He charms his patrons with stories of his past.

Rocky visits his late wife's grave site regularly, and embarks on an annual tour of Philadelphia landmarks that held importance to him and Adrian, including his old apartment on 1818 East Tusculum Street, the pet shop where Adrian worked, and the remains of the torn-down ice skating rink where Rocky took Adrian on their first date. Paulie (Burt Young) joins him on this tour, but does so at great personal pain because, in his opinion, he did not treat Adrian well during her life. Rocky counters this claim by reminding Paulie that Adrian loved him as well.

Rocky's son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), is the total opposite of his fighter father and that of himself as a fighter kid-- a buttoned-down, corporate-minded businessman who is trying to carve out his own place in a very different world. Rocky's relationship with Robert is strained because Robert has always had to live under the champ's shadow; he even believes that the only reason he was hired for his latest job was because of his last name. But through the course of the movie we see the relationship mend itself through Rocky's admonishment to his son that his life is his own and he must be willing to take chances to succeed.

During the tour of Rocky's life with Adrian, Rocky reunites with "Little" Marie, who was last seen as Robert's friend in Rocky V,(telling him "screw you, creepo"). Marie (Geraldine Hughes) works as a bartender at the Lucky Seven Tavern (Rocky's old hangout as of 1975). She has a son, Stephenson, nicknamed "Steps" (James Francis Kelly III). Rocky's friendship with Marie blossoms and gives him the confidence he needs to succeed in what is to come. He also develops a relationship with Steps, a youth growing up with no father figure in his life. Rocky takes the youth under his wing. He even takes Steps with him to the dog pound, where Rocky finds a new hound to replace his original "Butkus." Steps recommends the name "Punchy." It is not the most attractive dog in the world, but Rocky sees a reflection of himself: an aging creature who still has a little fight left in him.

ESPN broadcasts a show titled "Then and Now" hosted by Brian Kenny. It portrays a computer simulation of a fight between Rocky in his prime and the current heavyweight champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon. It is likened to a modern-day version of The Super Fight, a simulation between Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano that took place in 1970. In the Balboa-Dixon simulation, Balboa is predicted to have won with a 13th-round knockout, which riles the champ. Dixon's promoters L.C. Luco and Lou DiBella try to sell Dixon on the idea of a fight with Balboa. Pay-per-view audiences for Dixon's fights have plummeted thanks to his handpicked opponents and the public's perception of him as a corporate product rather than a battle-tested athlete who earned his title through drive and heart. They cynically argue that an exhibition fight with the heavyweight legend would buy Dixon favor with the public as well as generate a phenomenal payday.

Rocky is battling his own demons, particularly mourning Adrian, missing Mickey and Apollo, missing the days of his boxing prime, and dealing with his son being so distant. He feels that if he could get back into boxing on a small level, he might be able to exorcise them. His application for a license is initially denied until he pleads his case before the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. Dixon's promoters approach Rocky at his restaurant to pitch the fight – a charity exhibition match to be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Rocky returns to his old trainer, Tony "Duke" Evers. Duke concludes that since Rocky's body is old and arthritic, he cannot train for speed. Instead, Rocky must train to increase power ("buildin' some hurtin' bombs") and use "blunt force trauma" as his main weapon against Dixon.

Robert makes an effort to discourage Rocky from fighting, claiming that while it's hard enough to live under his father's shadow, this recent publicity will make it even worse. His son goes so far as to ask whether his father cares about him. A saddened Rocky says he remembers when Robert could fit in the palm of his hand. He says that at some point his son lost his way and started blaming other things and people for his own misfortune. Telling him:


The next day with Rocky at Adrian's grave, Robert, with some flowers, takes his father's advice, telling him that he quit his job because he didn't fit in with the top brass, mainly because of his boss. Robert just wants to be at his father's side.


The actual bout is a back-and-forth affair. Dixon dominates for the first round and the first half of the second round. Ringside commentator Larry Merchant says it looks like "a speed bag against a punching bag." Throughout the first round, the power of Rocky's punches is evident. The few that he lands result in Dixon saying to his trainers at the end of the round, "The guy's got bricks in his gloves!" But midway through the second round, Dixon injures his hand on a mis-timed punch. This allows Rocky to move in and pummel the champ, even knocking him down.

The remainder of the fight is shown in quickly cut scenes, with Rocky outperforming Dixon due to his injured hand for the next three rounds. In the 10th – or, as Paulie says to Rocky, "the last round of your life!" – it appears Dixon has gained a measure of respect for Rocky, stating, "You're one crazy old man" just prior to the start of the round. To which Rocky replies, "You'll get there."

In the final round, it first appears that Dixon will outlast the already-exhausted Balboa. A hard hook sends Rocky to a knee, where he has a flashback to a moment he had with his son only a few weeks prior. He remembers the words and lesson of perseverance that he gave to Robert along with memories of Adrian, and finds the strength to stand up against his opponent, to the uproar of the crowd. The fighters trade blows in the center of the ring, with Balboa landing the last few.

Dixon wins in a split decision. As the audience repeatedly chants his name, Rocky exits the arena as the decision is read - the outcome does not matter to him. It is the mere fact that he tried and "went the distance" with a much younger and more agile fighter that matters to him. Dixon says it was an honor to fight with him, now having acquired the respect he had been denied for so long. At the same time, Rocky is satisfied to finally be rid of his "demons."

The movie ends with Rocky speaking at Adrian's grave site. He repeats a slight variation of his famous last line from Rocky II, spoken after winning the heavyweight championship from Apollo Creed in their rematch and shortly after the birth of the couple's son: "Yo, Adrian, we did it." He leaves a bouquet of roses on her headstone, kisses it, and walks away. It is unclear as to where he goes, but the audience can probably assume he goes to the restaurant or to meet up with Paulie, his son, or Little Marie and Steps. But at least he is now finally ready to move on with his life, content that he no longer feels the need to prove anything to himself.

As the film (and series) concludes, the final image shows Rocky in the distance, waving to Adrian's grave and, in effect, to the audience, before finally fading out himself. The credits roll next to real-life footage of individuals--among them the Phillie Phanatic--running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, ending with Rocky himself ascending them in a flashback from the first film.


and Talia Shire (Adrian Pennino-Balboa) does not appear in the film due to a contractual dispute with MGM, so her character was killed off-screen.

Filming and productionEdit

Budget and timelineEdit

Filming began in December 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It then moved to Los Angeles, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as 2006 progressed.[4] The production budget on the 38-day shoot was projected to be $24 million. The film was scheduled for release during the President's Day holiday in 2007, but was moved up to right before Christmas, 2006.[5] In late March 2006, the first movie teaser was released on the Internet. The full-length trailer accompanied the theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on July 7 in select theaters and was also released on Yahoo! on July 10, where it was one of the most watched trailers on Yahoo.[6]


Rocky Balboa gives nods to previous installments via the casting. The most obvious is the return of Stallone, Young, and Burton - the only actors to portray the same characters in all six installments. Tarver's appearance in the movie marks the fifth time an active professional boxer has appeared in the series. Previously, Joe Frazier (Rocky), Pedro Lovell (Rocky), Roberto Durán (Rocky II), and Tommy Morrison (Rocky V) have appeared in the series. Stallone initially wanted Roy Jones, Jr. to portray Dixon, but after Jones did not return Stallone's phone calls, he tapped Antonio Tarver to fill the role.[7] Tarver accidentally knocked out Stallone during the filming of one of the segments of the fight.[8]

The character of Marie appeared in the original Rocky; she was portrayed by Jody Letizia. For the final movie, Marie is portrayed by Geraldine Hughes. (Although Letizia did reprise the role for Rocky V, the sole scene in which she appeared was deleted. In it, Marie was homeless on the streets of Philadelphia.) Another recognizable character who appeared in the previous five movies, sportscaster Stu Nahan, provided the commentary for the computer-generated fight between Dixon and Balboa. Nahan was part of the ringside commentary team during all the bouts in the first three movies. He was diagnosed with lymphoma during the Rocky Balboa filming, though, and died on December 26, 2007. Finally, Pedro Lovell, who portrayed Spider Rico in the original movie, returns to the role in Rocky Balboa as a guest and later employee at Rocky's restaurant.

A number of sports personalities portray themselves. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Max Kellerman comprise the ringside broadcast team (all three are commentators for HBO Boxing). Sportswriters such as Bert Sugar, Bernard Fernandez and Steve Springer also appear. As for actual boxers, Mike Tyson (who had retired by the film's release) makes a cameo appearance, taunting Dixon as the fighter enters the ring. Lou DiBella, a real-life boxing promoter, portrays himself as Dixon's promoter. Several of ESPN's personalities also portray themselves. SportsCenter anchor Brian Kenny is the host of the fictional Then and Now series, while Cold Pizza and 1st and 10 hosts Jay Crawford, Dana Jacobson, Skip Bayless, and Woody Paige also appear. Ring announcer Michael Buffer appeared as himself, as did referee Joe Cortez.

Regarding his decision not to have Talia Shire reprise her role as Adrian, Stallone told USA Today that, "in the original script, she was alive. But it just didn't have the same dramatic punch. I thought, 'What if she's gone?' That would cut Rocky's heart out and drop him down to ground zero."[9] Shire herself said that, in her view, "The film has great regard for the process of mourning. Sly utilizes mourning to empower Rocky, and Adrian is made very mythical."


A plot element from the fifth movie is not addressed in this film. Rocky was diagnosed to have brain damage and advised never to fight again. Stallone clarified this apparent inconsistency in an interview, remarking:

"When Rocky was diagnosed with brain damage, it must be noted that many athletes have a form of brain damage including football players, soccer players, and other individuals in contact sports such as rugby, etc. Rocky never went for a second opinion and yielded to his wife's wishes to stop. So with the advent of new research techniques into brain damage, Rocky was found to be normal among fighters, and he was suffering the results of a severe concussion. By today's standards Rocky Balboa would be given a clean bill of health for fighters."[10]

Cinematography and fight choreographyEdit

While the dramatic portions of the movie are shot in an obviously cinematic style, the bout between Balboa and Dixon is shot in a number of different ways. The lead-in to the bout, as well as the first two rounds, are shot in a style similar to a major pay-per-view broadcast. Clips from fights in previous Rocky movies are used during the introductory teaser to introduce Balboa, while stock footage from actual Tarver fights, as well as footage from Dixon's previous fight (shown at the beginning of the film) are used as clips for Dixon's part of the teaser. The fight itself was shot in High Definition to further enhance the TV-style look of the fight.[11]

After the first two rounds, the bout is shot in a more "cinematic" style, reminiscent of the way the fights in the other Rocky films were shot. However, unlike the other films in the series, the fight is less choreographed and more improvised than previous installments and is closer to an actual boxing match than a choreographed fight.[12] This is a departure from the previous films, where every punch, feint, and step was carefully scripted and practiced.[13]

According to the behind-the-scenes documentary portions of the film's DVD, there were slight continuity problems during the filming of the fight. This was said to have been due to the fact that real punches were thrown by both Stallone and Tarver, resulting in some swelling and nosebleeds earlier than scripted. The DVD release features an alternate ending in which Rocky wins the fight.


Composed by Academy Award winner Bill Conti, the Rocky Balboa film score is both an updated composition of Rocky music and a tribute to the music that has been featured in previous Rocky films. Conti, who has acted as composer on every Rocky film except Rocky IV, chose to compose the score almost entirely from musical themes used in the previous movies. Only one original theme was written specifically for Rocky Balboa and that is the theme written to represent the character of Marie.

The roughly 40 minute score was recorded in the summer of 2006 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California. Conti chose to pre-record the string, brass and piano tracks and then have those tracks mixed with the work of a 44 piece orchestra which he conducted. He also performed all of the piano work himself which is something he has done with each movie for which he has composed the score. Stallone also was involved in every part of the process and attended several of the recording sessions.[14]

In addition to the score the film features original tracks performed by Natasha Bedingfield, Three 6 Mafia and Frank Stallone as well as classic tracks such as Frank Sinatra's High Hopes and The Miracles' "Ooh Baby Baby".[15] Of the original tracks the most significant is the Diane Warren song "Still Here", performed by Bedingfield, which was reported to be the film's theme in early articles.[16] Though it is still listed in the credits the song now appears to have been dropped from the film.


Rocky Balboa represents a partnership between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Revolution Studios, and Columbia Pictures (Columbia's corporate parent Sony holds a 20% stake in MGM). Since the Rocky series was originally produced and distributed by United Artists (now MGM's subsidiary studio), the partners jointly decided that the film could and should take advantage of MGM's newly reinvigorated domestic distribution apparatus.[17] 20th Century Fox handles its theatrical and DVD distributions outside of the United States and Canada, while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment handled its American and Canadian video distributions. Warner Bros. handles its theatrical distributions in Philippines and Switzerland (under the Fox-Warner label).

In Japan, the motion picture has been promoted by Fox as "Rocky The Final". It opened across Japan April 20, 2007.[18]

Critical responseEdit

The film was well received. On the television show Ebert & Roeper, both Richard Roeper and guest reviewer Aisha Tyler gave the movie an enthusiastic "thumbs up" rating.[19] Among other positive reviews were from Variety,[20] David Edelstien of New York Magazine,[21] Ethan Alter of Premier Magazine,[22] Victoria Alexander of,[23] Michelle Alexandria of Eclipse Magazine,[24] Palo Alto Weekly,[25] Brett Buckalew of,[26] Robert W. Butler of Kansas City Star,[27] JR Jones of Chicago Reader,[28] Jack Garner of Rochester Democrat and Chronicle,[29] Hollywood Reporter,[30] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly,[31] Samrat Sharma of,[32] and, which called the fight sequence "by far the best".[33] Some criticism came from Christy Lemire, who describes the movie as self-parody.[34] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times also criticized the film's premise as implausible and derivative, and the plot development as cursory, while Colm Andrew of the Manx Independent said the film "captures the look and feel of the first Rocky but becomes too much of a sentimental homage" and overall "there is little point in joining Stallone on this ultimately dull nostalgia trip".[35]

The film garners a "Certified Fresh" rating of 76 percent on the movie site Rotten Tomatoes (with a 79 percent Cream of the Crop Rating from major news outlets), a Must Go! on Fandango.

The movie was greeted warmly by the majority of the boxing community, with many experts believing the Rocky character is still a key symbol of the sport and that the boxing scenes were the most realistic of any movie. On the DVD, Stallone attributes this to the fact that he used realistic sound-effects (the previous installments had become notorious for their unrealistic and loud sounds of punches landing) and the fact that both Stallone and Tarver threw real punches at each other.[36]

Box officeEdit

According to Stallone the movie has exceeded studio expectations grossing over three times the opening night estimates of (at best) $2,000,000 and doing so despite a harsh spell of winter weather.[37] The film not only finished third in its opening weekend, grossing $12,540,000,[38] but eventually became Stallone's most successful starring role since 1993's Cliffhanger[39] and the sixth highest grossing boxing movie of all time, topped only by the first Rocky through IV and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby.[40]

The total U.S. box office gross for Rocky Balboa as of March 29, 2007 stands at $70,269,899 while the international gross stands at $85,449,806 making for a total worldwide gross of $155,719,705.[41]


Main article: Rocky Balboa: The Best of Rocky

Whether the film Rocky Balboa has a soundtrack is subject to some debate. On December 26, 2006, Capitol Records released a CD titled "Rocky Balboa: The Best of Rocky" which had a logo and cover art that was identical to the film's theatrical poster.

The CD itself contains short dialogue clips and musical tracks, some of which are remixes, from all the Rocky films. Notable though is that only 3 of its 19 total tracks are from the Rocky Balboa film, 2 dialogue tracks and the Three 6 Mafia song "It's a Fight" (The UK version contains the additional track "Still Here" by Natasha Bedingfield). This has led some to categorize the CD as a compilation while others suggest that it is a soundtrack and that the use of past material simply reflects the film's extensive use of flashbacks.

Relevant to this debate is the complete absence of any compositions by Rocky IV composer Vince DiCola. DiCola is the only person, other than Bill Conti, to act as composer on a Rocky film and his work was used extensively on the 1991 compilation CD "The Rocky Story: Songs From The Rocky Movies". The missing DiCola tracks are the only tracks on the 1991 CD that are not present on the new CD which indicates an effort to use only Rocky Balboa composer Conti's tracks.[42][43][44]

Home releaseEdit

Rocky Balboa is available in three formats: Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and UMD. Features on the Blu-ray Disc and DVD include:

  • Deleted Scenes including an alternate ending
  • Boxing Bloopers
  • Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa
  • Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight
  • Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
  • Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight

In addition, the Blu-Ray version features all of the DVD's content in 1080p High Definition Video.[45]

It was released in Region 1 on March 20 and Region 2 on May 21, 2007.The film has made $35,622,998 in dvd sales, bringing its total film gross to $191,342,703.[3]

Video gameEdit

On December 13, 2006, it was officially announced by Ubisoft and MGM that a new Rocky video game, titled Rocky Balboa, was to be made exclusively for the PlayStation Portable handheld console. It was released on March 20, 2007, to coincide with the Blu-ray & DVD release.[46]


External linksEdit


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