So this movie doesn’t even belong in the line to register to take the Bechdel Test, but no matter. It’s a holiday and that means your brain and social responsibility can take a vacay.
It’s not just the Fourth of July on which this tale of Russia v. Rocky/USAUSAUSA is appropriate. Nay, this is a fun romp for all the biggies: Christmas, Easter, Halloween and New Year’s Day.
1) While it would seem to any mere mortal who hasn’t watched this movie at least 10 times that this is just a boxing movie about avenging a friend and healing two countries’ wounds and ending Communism in a one-two punch, they would be giving it too much credit but would also not be wrong. It’s also a movie about personal ethics, personal power and personal growth delivered on a gold platter crafted from Dolph Lundgren’s manically chiseled sweaty abs. God bless America.
2) There’s a robot! Not just any robot: a robot that appears to babysit the children while all the adults are away. And not just any children: the child of Rocky and Adrian AND his friends. Like… how did that happen? Did the parents just drop off their pre-teen sons to a robot in an apron and say, “I’ll pick him up after the child in your care’s father is beaten to a pulp half a world away, Robot. We’re going to Chi-Chi’s.” Isn’t that silly? Answer: It is. And it was put in the plot with no real explanation and approved by hundreds of people who make movies for a living. The robot is just a device for humor-kind-of and nothing about it beyond that was really thought out.
This. This is the world we live in and it is absurd. That is comforting confirmation of all of the ridiculousness you feel is taking place outside your living room and second bag of Doritos; comforting confirmation by way of a sassy robot with no real purpose. In the movie biz, we call that an easy pill to swallow on holiday.
3) Montages. So. Many. Montages. The best is the training juxtaposition of Rocky doing the old-school, hard-knocks method and Drago jamming and juicing in what looks like a soviet laser tag arena. The scene is set to a sweet little diddy called “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty. Literally the whole song. That’ll boot the holiday tunes that have been on repeat since fall right on out of your pretty little head. How many montages are too many? None because this is America but also Russia but also the world and that matters and that’s what we learn in the end. Confused? You’re not alone. NONE OF US ARE ALONE.
4) James Brown sings as Apollo dances in a top hat and sequin jacket. Then he dies. Spoiler.
5) “You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine. He’s a man!” I genuinely tear up every time Duke delivers this line in the final fight. Whatever is happening tomorrow, when it’s time to take your PJs off and act like a “real” person, you too can conquer the world. Or at least a 6-foot-five doped up Russian. Which, let’s be honest, is what the first day back to reality always feels like.