One of my favourite Hollywood heroes is coming back to screen after a long time. Sylvester Stallone might not be a great actor for many film pundits, but I just love him, his movies. Rose to fame with Rocky and Rambo series, Sylvester Stallone was finally seen in his elements in Assassins (1995). Most of his later ventures were either guest appearances or rehashes of his earlier characters. I was happy to see a report on his comeback slotted in the movie page, and was equally disappointed when ads ate away the space meant for the story. I have just copied down the AFP reportby Rob Woolward, for me to treasure. Even if his new venture is a rehash of the earlier movies in the franchise, he has an assured viewer in me.
Los Angeles: Thirty years after clambering through the ropes for a fairytale heavyweight title shot, cinema’s most famous boxer is getting into the ring once more. But can Rocky Balboa be a box-office knockout?
The first instalment of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series was a monster hit in 1976, winning best picture and director Oscar honours and establishing a franchise that would go on to gross nearly $450 million.
But four sequels and 14 years later, Rocky was on a one-way ticket to cinematic palookaville, with 1990s Rocky V earning only $41 million and signalling the end of the road for the punch-drunk Philadelphia pugilist.
Now, though, the 60-year-old Stallone is back, pulling on the gloves once more for Rocky Balboa, which has the boxer coming out of retirement to fight the reigning heavyweight champion in a one-off exhibition bout.
Movie industry experts question however whether the ageing actor’s ring return is stretching credibility too far, even by Hollywood — and boxing’s — elastic standards. “No matter what they do with the story, will audiences buy it?” UCLA film department professor Howard Suber said.
“Stallone can still take off his shirt without shame, he’s buff. But it goes so far beyond credibility that there might be a problem.”
Stallone, however, has not attempted to sidestep the issue of his advanced years during publicity for the film, which opens in US theatres on Wednesday. In fact, he says, the movie is a bruising statement against ‘ageism’. “Just because people get older doesn’t mean they abandon their dream or their ability to want to do something, so Rocky is symbolic of still wanting to participate,” Stallone told reporters in Los Angeles. “Rocky says the last thing to age is the heart, so I wanted to do a film that shows our generation is not on the outside looking in; it’s still vital and wants to be part of the parade, not watching the parade.
“I want to show that life is not over at 50. People say, ‘Come on, grow old gracefully.’ No, why? I’m not ready. I know people will think Rocky is my story, but it’s also my generation’s story.
“I am a has-been, no question,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t still contribute.”
Getting back in trim for his cinematic return to the ring proved challenging however, even though Stallone stays in shape with regular visits to the gym. “I can identify with the Tin Man before he gets the oilcan — a little creaky,” he quipped.
Joe Roth, of Revolution Studios which financed the film, said there were strong parallels between Stallone, whose star has been on the wane over the last decade after a string of flops, and the character of Rocky. “The script was a perfect metaphor for Stallone’s life — at 60, he becomes an underdog again,” Roth said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“This character is an expression of his own heart. Rather than fight it, he’s using it to tell us how he feels.”
Whether Rocky Balboa can deliver a box-office success hinges on its ability to appeal to a wide audience, says Suber, something it may struggle to do because of the boxing genre’s traditional failure to attract female audience members. “I think this is basically one of those films that appeals to a 14-year-old male mentality. This makes it quite a challenging sell because most of its primary audience weren’t even born when the last Rocky came out, let alone the first one,” Suber said.
“It’s going to have an awful lot to overcome. There’s age of the character, which affects the credibility, and there’s Sylvester Stallone. Sylvester Stallone is not an actor who has any particular following in the early years of the 21st century,” he added. (AFP)