Rocky (1976)

on March 03, 1976 by BOXOFFICE Staff
Fight pictures being rare, "Rocky" succeeds as an offbeat entry by combining a Cinderella story with a rich character study of a man who boxes because he doesn't know much else. Sylvester Stallone, who stars in his own original screenplay and choreographed the bouts, is being named for Oscar consideration. Dumb but basically decent, Rocky really can't hurt anyone unless provoked. By a fluke, he is matched with the heavyweight champion (Carl Weathers in a variation on Muhammad Ali). The acting is generally fine and Stallone and Burgess Meredith are superb. One of the oldest plot devices in films, that of the plain-looking girl who becomes a beauty, also works: in the case of female lead Talia Shire, it's something audiences will be quite willing to believe. John G. Avildsen's direction is sharp and plays the satiric ingredients, as well as the more poignant qualities, to maximum effect. The Irwin Winkler-Robert Chartoff production has several original songs in the score by Bill Conti. The character of Rocky and the host of Italian characters, some played by non-Italians, will take a bit of time to accept. Once past that, audiences will undoubtedly be touting Sylvester (Sly) Stallone as a new star. Technicolor, prints by DeLuxe Color.

Philadelphia boxer Sylvester Stallone, a small-timer, doubles as a collector for hood Joe Spinell, although he doesn't like to use violence. In the ring, where he's dubbed the Italian stallion, the good-natured Stallone beats Pedro Lovell only after being butted intentionally. Friend Burt Young, a butcher, tries to promote a romance between his shy sister Talia Shire, who works in a pet shop, and Stallone. Also an animal lover, Stallone talks her into a Thanksgiving date which is platonic until he kisses her passionately and she responds. Heavyweight champion Carl Weathers, who is as shrewd out of the ring as he is flamboyant in the squared circle, selects Stallone for a Bicentennial bout. Stallone trains earnestly and gym owner Burgess Meredith, once a fighter, tries to help. Upset because Stallone won't ask Spinell about hiring him, Young causes a scene and Shire moves in with Stallone. The bout is taken lightly by Weathers, until he's knocked down. Stallone gets his wish: to go the distance, just losing the match but telling Shire he loves her.

Soundtrack album is available on UA Records. Tie in with local boxing clubs. The October 18 issues of New York and New West Magazines have articles on Stallone.

His whole life was a million-to-one shot. United Artists 121 mins.

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