What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Communism’s greatest threat is not nuclear annihilation, but an unintelligible, brain-battered boxer. Academy Award nominees Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire and Burt Young, Carl Weathers, and Dolph Lundgren star in Rocky IV.

Rocky IVCast of Characters:
Rocky Balboa – Sylvester Stallone
Adrian Balboa – Talia Shire
Paulie Pennino – Burt Young
Apollo Creed – Carl Weathers
Ludmilla Vobet Drago – Brigitte Nielsen
Tony “Duke” Evers – Tony Burton
Ivan Drago – Dolph Lundgren

Director – Sylvester Stallone
Screenplay – Sylvester Stallone
Producer – Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff
Rated PG

In 1985, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a 6-foot-5, 261-pound freak of nature from the Soviet Union, arrives in the U.S. with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen) and manager Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki). Both Ludmilla and Nicolai take great pride in promoting Drago’s athleticism as a hallmark of Soviet superiority over us puny Americans.

Whatever he hits… he destroys.

Motivated by some good ole fashion ‘Merican patriotism, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides he ain’t gonna take no shit from this vodka-swilling Russky, and challenges Drago to an exhibition fight. Though Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has his reservations about the match, he agrees to help train Apollo.

After some major press conference smack-talking, Apollo and Drago hash it out in the ring, where Apollo gets his ass kicked left, right, up, down and all the way to the grave. Outraged over his friend’s death, Rocky decides to end it once and for all with a Christmas Day 15-round vengeance match in the Soviet Union.

And then communism just magically ended everywhere.

A long time ago, back in 1976, there was this little engine that could called Rocky that stormed the box office and became just as much an underdog at the Oscars as it’s titular hero, earning ten Oscar nominations and winning three for Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture. Three sequels later, it turned into a joke.

What the hell happened?

Now, I’ll readily admit that Rocky isn’t one of those one-and-done type franchises where the first is the only good one and the rest suck (kind like how most, if not all, horror franchises are). Rocky II, while not as great as Rocky, is still a worthy continuation of the story and I was also pleasantly surprised by the most recent entry, 2006’s Rocky Balboa. That leaves the three in between which is either meh like Rocky III or downright atrocious like Rocky IV and V.

Before you all start grabbing your pitchforks and lighting torches, I get that this is a fan favorite of the series. I’m well aware that I’m of the minority opinion and that many, many, many others love the montage orgy that is Rocky IV, so most everyone isn’t gonna take too kindly to me sucker-punching this bag of suck harder than the blow that landed Apollo Creed in a pine box.

Here, all the characters, heart and emotion from the first two Rocky pictures have been traded in for 90 minutes of dopey flag waving. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for cheering on Old Glory, but this is so over-the-top, they might as well have had Stallone fly in on a giant bald eagle to fight “four stiffly spoken words or less at a time” Ivan Drago, the toughest, meanest, most bad-ass fighter in all of Mother Russia, yet still has his woman speak for him (Brigitte Nielsen, who’s given more than ten lines of dialogue ’cause she was sleeping with the writer/director at the time).

I’m guessing those tiny balls aren’t from the steroids.

The main problem that drags this film down into the franchise cellar is one I already mentioned in passing. Trey Park and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police said it best – “We’re gonna need a montage!!” This time, though, it’s more like we’re gonna need a montage… and another… and another… might as well have another… Another one? Sure, why not? Thank you, sir, may I have another? A montage within a montage? What a brilliant idea!!

One montage isn’t enough here; in fact, the moment Rocky arrives in Russia there’s a 4-minute training montage (set to Vince DiCola’s “Training Montage”… see, even the song titles phone it in), followed by a momentary lapse of people talking, which is then followed by another 4-minute training montage. Hold on; it ain’t over yet, ’cause then Adrian (who’s so tragically wasted in this film, the character actually received more depth dead and buried in Rocky Balboa) shows up to support her man. What’s the best way to celebrate over that? With another 5-minute training montage ’cause at this point, I’m sure everyone’s just winging it.

Even by cheesy ’80s movie standards, that is excessive.

If you tally up just the montages in Russia, that’s nearly 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes, and that’s not counting either Rocky or Creed’s (who ridiculous exhibition intro stretches on for what feels like half the movie) fights, or the post-funeral sad montage Rocky has following Creed’s death where he mourns by reminiscing of the good ole days he and Creed would excitedly splash each other in the ocean. Overall, nearly a third of this movie is musical montage. Take out the montages and fight scenes and you have enough scripted dialogue to barely fill up a travel center brochure.

And about 20% of that dialogue’s coming from that giant, talking robot.

Yes… I said a giant… talking… robot.

In the end, if this film taught me anything, it’s that we apparently pissed away a lot of money fighting the Red Scare. These are Soviets that just magically start cheering for Rocky midway through the climactic fight with really no reason as to why other than I guess ’cause he’s Rocky, and our mumbling hero’s victory speech socks everyone in the chest with a good hard dose of the feels even Gorbachev himself is moved to join the stand and applause bandwagon.

As soft as these Commies must be, the Cold War should’ve been a walk in the park for us.

Then again, the Berlin Wall still stood for another four years after Rocky reminded the world that “We all can change!!!!”, so clearly no one gave a shit.

Essentially a couple of cheesy lines here and there wrapped up inside one giant montage, Rocky IV shares a spot at the bottom of the barrel with Rocky V as the worst of the Rocky franchise, and in some highly laughable aspects, it could very well be the worst. How Stallone managed to squeeze money out of the studio to make a bad 90-minute music video is beyond me. I guess when you’re able to crush the iron grips of Soviet oppression with nothing more than an embarrassingly mawkish “We Are the World” speech, you get a free pass to do whatever you want.

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