Movie Review: Rocky Balboa (2006)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 2006 sports drama starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Tarver.

Synopsis: Retired for 20 years, in his mid-50s and a widower, Rocky is stuck in a rut as he continues to re-visit the past. Determined to get out of his funk, he is considering fighting in smaller, local bouts. However, when a computer simulation shows him beating the current champion, Mason Dixon, he is instead given the opportunity to face his much younger opponent in an exhibition match and, despite his son's objections and the world believing he will be embarrassed, he agrees.


The first time I saw this movie, a few years ago, I had a hard time finding a reason to like it. As a fan of the Rocky franchise, I actually lumped this in with the 5th film and considered it one more movie too many.

However, I've since had an opportunity to re-watch this movie a couple times, including this past weekend. And, as I have, I will admit, the movie has grown on me.

On the surface, there really isn't much about this movie that sets it apart from the others. Rocky is an underdog and the plot is also very similar, a lot of talking, some training montages and finally the big fight. That being said, there is a lot about this movie that is very likable.

For one, I like how the movie shows off a bit more of Rocky's (Stallone) caring personality. He is, for all purposes, a has-been boxer. But, he still has lots of people who love him because he is quick to put others first without expecting anything in return, whether it's providing free food (via his restaurant) to his friends or helping out a single mother (Hughes) he happens to meet at a bar. I especially liked how he managed to do the latter without it becoming something romantic, something I think would have hurt the movie.

As a result of this effort, it becomes very easy to care about Rocky again. Not only do you want to see him do well against Mason Dixon (Tarver), there is actual concern he might get hurt or, worse, embarrassed in front of millions. This is something that was missing from some of the original films.

I also found I liked the fight sequence much more than I thought I would. Rocky is obviously the fan favorite. But, much like Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), his opponent isn't necessarily a bad guy either. Instead, he was simply a victim of being too good. His previous opponents were badly beaten and he was wrongfully blamed for that.

The fact Dixon had to face his own demons and prove himself in the ring too was a nice touch that made the film much more enjoyable because, if Rocky managed to win, what would it say about Dixon? As a result, I found I was simply hoping for a good fight rather than either of the opponents winning. And, that is something more sports movies should do.

Final Opinion

It took me a couple viewings to get on board with this film. But, after seeing it a couple times and having a chance to reflect, I do think it is one of the better Rocky movies I've seen because it brought him back to his underdog roots while keeping things relatively new. If you haven't seen the movie, I recommend it.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 02/21/2017, StevenHelmer
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