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Rocky Balboa

How Many Rounds Can You Take?

If you liked, enjoyed or even loved Rocky, then you will feel the same about this final segment of the franchise. The last few Rocky sequels were pumped with lots of flash and very little substance. This latest offering is, if anything, understated. But most importantly, like its famous protagonist, it is genuine.

Sylvester Stallone sounds like the Rocky we know and acts like the Rocky we know but he certainly doesn't look like Rocky. The Italian Stallion's gotten some serious work done; making all that collagen and those face lifts seem a bit too much. But you got to love the guy. Despite it all, he's (pretty much) the same old bumbling paisan you can't help but root for.

Along with the makeover, Rocky's fashioned himself into a local personality. He runs a cozy Italian joint, aptly named "Adrian's", where he entertains diners with tales from his boxing days. He is clearly stuck in the past, as can be witnessed by a scene in which he retraces his first date with Adrian. Indeed there are several very pointed references to Rocky and even some clips lifted directly from the original. There's even Paulie. And how can you not love Paulie (Burt Young)?

While Rocky is occupied with his new venture, he is still not content. He misses his wife (I don't want to reveal Adrian's whereabouts in fear of spoiling anything), is estranged from his yuppie son Rocky Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia) and still hasn't satisfied his yearning for a good fight. So, when a sports channel runs a mock virtual match between him and the current heavy weight champ, Mason "The Line" Dixon (it's still undecided whether this name is creative or completely ridiculous), and Rocky comes out on top -- it gets his wheels a-turnin'.

The culmination of the film is a match between Dixon and Rocky. It is filmed like an actual sporting event on HBO and is well-choreographed with just a touch of ostentation, including flashbacks and two toned splashes reminiscent of a Gatorade commercial. Nonetheless, it will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Despite what it seems, Rocky Balboa is not a comeback film. Not exactly. And thank God as Stallone, like his character, is sixty years old. This movie is more about farewells than anything else. Written, directed and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa is closer than any sequel to the original. The language is very real and down to earth and the story is your basic lowly-guy-does-good. And there is excellent character development. Of course, Stallone is cashing in on the idea of Rocky and Paulie that he has already built up in the first place so that's not saying much.

Rocky Balboa is emotional, some would even say sentimental. The scenes concerning Adrian and Rocky Jr. are particularly saccharine. A few scenes between Rocky and his son are straight up unbelievable. For example, in one scene they get into a huge argument and in another, things are quickly mended and all is right with the world; father-son rifts are not mended so lightly.

Overall, however, Rocky Balboa is a wonderful way to say goodbye. It's got the heart. It's got the soundtrack. It's got the grey sweats. Now let's hope that it's really over.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars