Movie Night: Rocky IV

MoviesYes, you read that right. My movie of choice last night was none other than Rocky IV, the Sylvester Stallone-directed nadir of the Rocky series (and that’s saying something). By way of justification, let me make clear that I made no actual effort to watch the movie — it was showing on American Movie Classics (which does make me question their “classic” selection process). That also means we were watching a no doubt sanitized-for-television version complete with commercial breaks. In pan-and-scan format, no less. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even consider such a viewing to count in my little “movie night” series (for which the ratings are... well, about the same as every other entry here), but come on — it’s Rocky IV. Who cares?

There is, of course, absolutely nothing original about this picture; it adheres unswervingly to the formula established in the first Rocky picture (well, I suppose the real formula was established in the second picture, but since it relied so heavily on the original, I’ll give credit where it’s due). In fact, this movie is so light on story that it has to fill time with interminable montage sequences from the previous pictures, all cut to that absolutely charming eighties pop music.

So why on Earth did I watch it — again, as I had seen it in its original release (hey, cut me some slack: I was in high school)? Simple — because no matter how terrible a movie it may be, it is a fantastic window into the national mentality at the height of the Reagan era. Stallone, of course, was coming off the heels off his equally insipid (but ridiculously successful) Rambo, and it only made sense to bring that picture’s villains — the Soviets — over to his other franchise character. Remember, this was in 1985, and while we did have the Libyans as stock villains (see Back to the Future), the Soviets were still the ultimate baddies. This was shortly after Gorbachev came into power, well before we had any idea of the reforms he would implement; at the time, he appeared just another in a series of Communist strongmen.

And I must confess, I really enjoyed watching the movie; not just in so-bad-it’s-funny amusement, but in an “I can’t believe we thought like this” way. Not to minimize the threat of the Soviet Union, but the movie plays into every dehumanizing sterotype about the “evil empire.” The emotionless mien of the Russian power-brokers, the constant KGB (or perhaps it was the GRU — they sort of glide past any specifics) surveillance, the physical cold of Siberia (okay, it’s probably not supposed to be Siberia, but we get the idea), the omnipresence of the Red Army, the ubiquitous red (supplemented by a tasteful smattering of grey) in all of their decorating.

Of course, the picture insists on adding in a little message of hope at the end (I hope I’m not giving too much away, but... Rocky wins), when the Moscow fight crowd starts cheering for Rocky; all those poor, oppressed folks need is a taste of good ol’ American spunk and they’ll instantly forget any nationalist sympathies. Even the Gorbachev stand-in starts applauding for the little American underdog. Rocky — draped in an American flag — opines (in his Philadelphia street-speak, which he had somehow shed during the rest of the picture) that if he can change, and they can change, then maybe everyone can change.

Just as long as the American kicks the Russian’s ass first.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home