Rocky Balboa

Rated 3.0

Gambling that his meal ticket is still redeemable, writer-director-star-shameless-franchiser Sylvester Stallone pares down the trappings of excess, like roman numerals, and gets back to basics. Yes, this might be the best Rocky movie since the first Rocky movie. But if that sounds like a rave, just think of all the others. It’s been 16 years since Rocky V officially put the Italian Stallion out to pasture, and he’s gotten fed up with moping around his South Philly neighborhood. After an ESPN virtual simulation pits him against current champ (Antonio Tarver), Rocky decides to try a real-life version of the bout. “I’m not interested in getting, like, mangled and embarrassed,” he says, as if making a promise directly to the audience. Rocky Balboa again shows Stallone as a shrewd, affecting portraitist, but only barely a dramatist. With his primary weapons—heart and self-effacement—still hot, he jabs his way through a junkpile of same-old stuff and abandoned subplots. He’s not wrong that even split decisions may contain victories.