Working class unknown Rocky Balboa gets given the chance of a lifetime; a fight against undisputed world champion Apollo Creed.
Obvious, clichéd, silly, dated, cheesy, all words I could use to describe “Rocky”, 1976’s massively popular boxing drama. So why am I forgiving, relatively speaking, of these flaws? Because I cared. Why? Perhaps it was in the small details; Rocky’s arena visit the night before the fight, the camera framing in equal measures his awe and fear.
Perhaps it was structural; the first hour is devoted to character, immersing us in Rocky’s life. So when a fight between our David and a Goliath is billed for the finale with half the run-time still to go, we are invested in the outcome – this anticipation makes for compelling viewing.
Perhaps, above all else, it is Stallone who makes the winning argument. Big-mouthed and brawny, but hinting at complexity beneath the surface. His charismatic stage presence carries the screen when the filmmaking is ropey, but his nuance at naked moments is just as important. This isn’t a knock-out picture, but it does go the distance.