Standing by her man

Cold warriors warmed over

Published: Jul 15 2014, 01:01:am

November 27, 1985.
ROCKY IV. Music by Vince DiCola. Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone. Running   time: 91 minutes. Mature entertainment. In 70mm Dolby Stereo.
APOLLO CREED (CARL WEATHERS) is dead. Creed, the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, succumbs in the second round of an exhibition match with the Soviet Union's undefeated amateur champion Captain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a victim of the 261-pound Russian's relentless attack.
    Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is in mourning. Following their own bouts in Rocky (1976) and Rocky II (1979), the two boxers became fast friends. It was Creed who trained the Italian Stallion for his meeting with Clubber Lang (Mr. T) in Rocky III (1982)
    Rocky realizes that there's something at stake here. Renouncing his own title, he agrees to face the Soviet superman. Their fight to the finish is scheduled for Christmas Day in Moscow.
    It is evening now. Rocky arrives home to find Adrian (Talia Shire) standing in the shadows at the top of the stairs. "Why do you do it?" asks the loyal wife.
    "l'm just doing what I gotta do," says the most prosperous pug in America. Otherwise, why bother making a movie called Rocky IV?
    Well, before making his boots-on exit, Creed suggests that "we have to be right in the middle of the action, because we're the warriors." It is, says the eloquent Apollo, "us against them."
    Later, after burying his black buddy, Rocky picks up the theme. "lt's the warriors' code. There's no surrender."
    Is Rocky's alter ego, 39-year-old Sylvester Stallone, trying to tell us something? Why is this man (who also plays the vioence-prone Vietnam veteran John Rambo) draping   himself  — literally! — in the American flag?
    Perhaps Stallone is looking into the future and, trusting his instincts, the well-muscled writer-director is betting on cold-war confrontation plots to pay off at the box office once again. As a filmmaker, he's never been above recycling Rocky's tried-and-true tale to take advantage of the prevailing Zeitgeist.
    Nor is Sly above a little patriotic dishonesty in his depiction of "them and us. '' As portrayed by Swedish-born male model Lundgren, Drago is the product of the evil empire's "technology of human perfection," an inchoate fighting machine.
    Stallone drives the point home in the film's second-half training montage. As composer Vince DiCola's sub-standard score pounds away on the soundtrack, we see the all-American champ working out in the snow-covered Siberian countryside.
    Back and forth, the film cuts between our pure, simple hero and automaton Drago, between Rocky's barnyard and the Russian's special gymnasium, a facility that crosses a high-tech fitness centre with a laboratory. As visual shorthand for "them and us,'' the sequence is both simplistic and pernicious.
    Sly's message? They only respect you when you can beat the spit out of them. Go the distance, take the blows and, by the 15th round, even Russian crowds will be on their feet yelling "HRAW-kee! HRAW-kee! HRAW-kee!''
    Short  — it runs 91 minutes, at least 10 of them recycled from previous Rocky features — and expensive (adult admission prices have jumped to $6 for the 70mm sites), Rocky IV is strictly for folk whose deepest thoughts can be expressed on a bumper sticker.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1985. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: During the making of Rocky IV, the five-foot nine-inch tall Sylvester Stallone found a woman he could look up to in the six-foot-plus Brigitte Nielsen, the actress who made her screen debut starring opposite Sly's body-builder buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger, as warrior woman Red Sonja (1985). A whirlwind romance ensued. They were married in December 1985, 19 days after Rocky IV's release, and divorced 19 months after that. During their time together, they co-starred as lovers in the 1986 action-thriller Cobra, and were featured on the covers of most of the supermarket tabloids. Since parting, she's continued to play tall blondes in the movies, occasionally venturing into space (Galaxis, 1995). He went on to star in two more Rocky features (1990 and 2006). Inasmuch as Rocky IV's climactic battle was shot on location in the Agrodome on the grounds of Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition, I'm calling it a made-in-B.C. feature.