‘All those beatings you took in the ring, I took them with you…’
If cracks were starting to appear already in the bonkers Cold War parable of Rocky IV, then the franchise absolutely reached its nadir by the time the fifth entry was released. Rocky V was a doomed attempt to take the character back to his roots by hiring original director John G. Avildsen and sending Rocky back to the neighbourhood, complete with his ridiculous hat & gloves combo and bouncing ball. Sylvester Stallone himself admits that his main motivation for making Rocky V was greed and he has since awarded the film 0/10.
Stallone himself sleepwalks through much of the film, looking entirely disinterested for most of Tommy Gunn’s excruciatingly dull attempts to claim a shot at the title. It is the lack of Apollo Creed and Mickey that really hurts the film however, as well as a dubious performance from Sage Stallone as Rocky’s son, and real life boxer Tommy Morrison stinking the place out as the antagonist. Even the much vaunted Rocky montage sequence falls flat. Worst of all though, is the absolutely baffling earring sported by Sage Stallone. In many ways the offending earring represents Stallone’s career at the time, dangling down into nothingness, suspended in an empty void, hanging on the edge of the abyss. It is really really shit.
Despite all this however, Rocky V is not a complete disaster. Talia Shire is as effective as she has ever been and it is nice to have a greatest hits of some of the famous landmarks from earlier in the franchise (even if the main effect of that is to provoke a yearning to be watching one of those superior Rocky sequels.)
On the whole, Rocky V mostly deserves its status as one of the most hated sequels of all time, but it still holds up as a curio, a crumbling relic that serves as a testament for what happens when loads of talent gets it really wrong. The fact that the film is tinged with tragedy following the untimely deaths of Sage Stallone and Tommy Morrison, from a drug overdose and AID’s respectively, only makes Rocky V even more uncomfortable viewing.
I only returned to Rocky V because I’m in the midst of re-watching the entire franchise. It is a damning indictment of the films quality that I’ll probably never watch it again.
To read about what happens when you watch Rocky I, II, III and IV back to back, click here