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Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith, Carl Weathers

Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is a hustler and a small-time boxer from Philadelphia. When the reigning champion Apollo Creed (Weathers) needs to find a contender at the last minute he gives Rocky the opportunity of a lifetime. With his long-time trainer Mick (Meredith) at his side, Rocky trains to make the most of a chance he thought he’d never get. As his girlfriend Adrian (Shire) and her brother Paulie (Young) look on, Rocky takes his one big shot.

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At the time of its release, Rocky was a big commercial success. From a critical standpoint it drove people to both sides of the aisle. While some critics thought it was too sentimental, others were happy for a change in scenery from the negativity found in many films of the time. Rocky completed with Network, Taxi Driver, and Marathon Man amongst  number of other films during the award season. Rocky came out on top with Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Editing. In addition to the wins, Rocky was also nominated for seven additional awards. Sylvester Stallone (Rambo) was nominated for Best Actor and also Best Screenplay. Talia Shire (The Godfather) was nominated for Best Actress. Burt Young (Chinatown) and Burgess Meredith (The Day of the Locust) were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The movie also received nominations for Best Sound and Best Original Song.

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The acting in this movie works for me. Stallone does a great job bringing a washed up fighter to life. Talia Shire is wonderful as the shy and reclusive Adrian and her brother Paulie is played perfectly by Burt Young. The oft underrated Burgess Meredith is a major key to the success of this film with his awesome performance as the cranky trainer and manager. Even Carl Weathers seemed to bring the right energy to his role as the Ali-esque Apollo Creed.

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Outside the boxing sequences, this movie doesn’t do a lot with the camera. Fortunately, this movie didn’t need much of a visual flair. The scenes are often emotional and intimate, allowing the actors to make the scenes work. The locations used throughout the movie do work nicely for the story. John G. Avildsen (Save the Tiger) did a nice job bringing this movie to life and getting the most from his cast.

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This is a classic film that I’ve always enjoyed. The acting is really amazing, and allows the movie to be focused on more than just the fight scenes. Like most boxing films, I think the best parts of the movie shouldn’t be in the ring. This movie was the first in a six film series that has become one of the most successful film franchises in history. If you’ve never seen Rocky I think you need to make the time. For those who have, I encourage you to revisit this one. It’s a dramatic story with some classic moments. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 119 minutes


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