ROCKY IV (1985)

When East Meets West, the Champion Remains Standing.


By David Litton | January, 2004

For those of you who are avid “Golden Girls” watchers, you may recall an episode in which Rose, when going off on one of her many tangents, discusses the predictability of movie sequels and poses the question, “Did you doubt for one minute that Rocky was going to beat that Russian?” And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Rocky IV is perhaps the most easily-spotted of the franchise’s plotlines, a cookie-cutter entry that just doesn’t feel right in all the wrong places. The plot is pretty basic, pitting Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) against Russia’s own boxing champion Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who literally knocks the life out of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), leaving it up to the Italian Stallion to do battle in the ring once again. But while he spends his time in a Siberian hut performing manual labor and carrying out his training under rigorous conditions, Drago busies himself with high-tech equipment and steroids to pump up. Guess who’ll win? Girl, please.

More of an anti-Soviet, Cold War propaganda piece than an actual franchise entry, Rocky IV manages to steal a few punches here and there with a couple of moments that capture the essence of what makes this series so reliably entertaining. But where’s the character involvement? Where’s the human root of the story? Why does it feel more like a message that Russians are nothing more than cold-blooded killers than the genuine Rocky experience we all know and love? Sure, it’s kinda nice to watch him win against the big brute in the end- he did kill Apollo, after all- but it could’ve been anyone to do that; instead, it’s a Soviet. It’s a shame that this element overshadows much of the film, because much of Rocky IV has that solid saga feel to it that could have been another engaging chapter in this seemingly unstoppable line of movies. If only Stallone could put the social agenda to rest and just let what he does best flow smoothly.