Film confession: This was the first time I had ever seen Rocky, start to finish. I know I have caught the ending and the training montage a few times, but never enough to really know the story. That being said, this was a very satisfying check mark on my list.
We first meet Rocky, a.k.a The Italian Stallion, (Sylvester Stallone) at a small-time boxing match, where a five dollar shower and extra for towels are taken out of the money he made. He walks home through the dirty streets of Philadelphia to his filthy little apartment where he talks to his pet turtles, Cuff and Link. “” During the day, he’s a debt collector, putting on a tough guy face but gets in trouble for not breaking thumbs like he was told to. At the gym, the locker he’s had for six years has just been taken over for Mickey’s (Burgess Meredith) new contender in training. And at the pet store, Adrian (Talia Shire) hardly gives him a second look. Rocky seems like a real loser.
Things slowly start to turn around when Paulie (Burt Young) sets Rocky up with Adrian, his sister. Though Rocky isn’t exactly a charmer and tends to ramble about boxing in one-sided conversation, his intentions are only good and he and Adrian do connect. The important thing about their relationship is that they’re both very lonely losers. He’s a mumbling tough guy no one takes seriously and she’s the extremely shy pet shop worker who lives with her brother.
The sports movie plot heats up when heavy weight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to box for the championship against a struggling boxer, Rocky. Americans like sympathy, to root for the underdog, it’s romantic. The whole thing is supposed to be a spectacle, giving a nobody the chance to become a somebody, but still giving Apollo an easy fight. Thing is, Rocky gives Apollo a run for his money.
Then comes the whole ‘Rocky’s gotta train for his big moment’ part of the film. With this big opportunity, Mickey finally decides to train Rocky, but he’s still pissed about being thrown out of his locker and never being helped before. It becomes a race against lost training years that only perseverance and heart can overcome.
That classic montage of Rocky training with Gonna Fly Now in the background is THE iconic training montage that all other sports films have tried in one way or another to live up to. Somewhere in that few minutes we suddenly become inspired to go for a run at the crack of dawn, do badass push-ups or punch slabs of meat. That is where Rocky has its power, to inspire all of us underdogs to be more than we think we can.
In the end, Rocky is about the journey and discovery of potential, not about winning the fight. To some, that’s real inspiration, but it left me wanting just a little more. I was proud of Rocky, but wanted to know he’s going to be alright. And I have never cared for the yelling back and forth ending.
“Apollo Creed vs. the Italian Stallion. Sounds like a damn monster movie.”