Losing My Virginity: Rocky


[Losing My Virginity articles are reviews written by someone who still hasn’t seen an incredibly popular movie after all these years. LMV reviews are interesting in that they can offer the perspective of a person who’s untainted by the cloud of commonness that surrounded a famous film of the past, and also show how well it has stood the test of time.]

There are a lot of classic films that I’ve let slip past me since I’ve devoted a large amount of time and focus to films. Rocky, for some odd reason, was one of them. What’s weird is that I’m pretty heavily invested in sports, with boxing being one of my main athletic interests. I’m shocked at myself that it’s taken me 25 years to watch Rocky, especially after all of the great boxing films that have come since. As the precursor to such films as Raging Bull, Ali, and The Fighter, it was interesting to see exactly how well (if at all) Rocky has stood the test of time.

Like most classic, iconic films, Rocky is one of those films where, even if you haven’t seen it, you’re aware of some of its more memorable scenes, such as the training montage climaxing with Rocky raising his arms in success as the camera pans over the Philadelphia skyline. Then there’s also the hilarious Sly snarl of “ADRIAAAAAAAN!” after his fight with Apollo Creed. However, it’s the intricacies in the film’s plot that ultimately stood out to me in the end.

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) moonlights as an amateur boxer that never quite lived up to his potential. Having dropped out of high school at an early age and finding minor work as a loan shark’s enforcer, Rocky doesn’t really have much else going on in his life BUT boxing. However, when the Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to stage a promotional fight to celebrate America’s bicentennial, Rocky finds himself in a lucrative position when Creed personally chooses him.

What fascinated me the most was Stallone’s script. Stallone pitched the script to United Artists, which was quickly picked up. However, he had to lobby for the role, claiming it’d be his greatest regret if the film became hugely successful and he wasn’t the lead role. Funny how things can set the tone for the future. Despite how critically and commercially successful Rocky turned out, however, Stallone’s acting in the film is questionable. At one point in the film, I actually noted I couldn’t find where Stallone ended and Rocky began. 

One aspect of the film that I actually empathized with is how “normal” Rocky is. Paired with Stallone’s acting, Rocky was a bumbling, awkward, slightly desperate character. There’s a scene partway through the film where Rocky is trying to grab his crush, Adrian’s (Talia Shire), attention at the pet shop where she works. He lingers way too long, talks way too much, and his voice is tinged with way too much desperation. The “unremarkability” of Rocky is one of the film’s strongest points.

Playing into the underdog tone of the film is the pacing/script itself. I came into Rocky expecting numerous scenes of Rocky training and fighting. When I realized early on that the film wasn’t going to be anything like how I expected, I actually found myself becoming more enthralled with its direction. The emphasis really isn’t on Rocky the boxer, but Rocky the person. I had no idea that Rocky was gonna be so human and personable. Because of this, Rocky’s less-than-stellar attributes are highlighted under a microscope, much like the aforementioned awkwardness of the character.

This brings me to the film’s amazing ending. Unexpected to even pose a slight challenge to Creed, Rocky actually shocks himself and the world when he knocks Creed down early in their fight. As the rubber match meets its close, the film does something I wasn’t expecting. While I knew that Apollo Creed was ultimately declared the winner, the ending focuses not on the announcement of the fight’s winner, but on Rocky’s and Adrian’s declaration of love to each other. Even in modern films, an ending like this would still be amazing. I can only imagine the reaction to the film’s ending in 1976. To create an underdog narrative where the underdog not only loses, but is uncaring of his journey’s results is fantastic.

While I would still rank later boxing films above Rocky, it definitely set the tone and foundation for every boxing film that followed it. Technically-speaking, the sound mixing gets muddied where multiple volume sources overlap over one another. With no option for subtitles, I found myself not being able to understand certain lines of dialogue. Furthermore, Stallone’s acting is spotty at best. While his “action” scenes are where his true talent shines, his delivery is just cringe-worthy. Again, I’m not sure if this was deliberate to better shape Rocky’s persona, or it’s just how suspect Stallone’s acting is.

After the film ended, I found myself quickly adding every other Rocky film into my Netflix queue, making good process into Rocky II before I was able to pull myself away to write this feature. Rocky was surprising and obviously left me wanting to find out more about what happens in the life of Rocky Balboa. From here on out, I won’t feel guilty every time I yell out, “ADRIAAAAAAN!” whenever I find my face battered and blue after a life-changing fight.