Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sylvester Stallone|
|Produced by||Robert Chartoff
|Written by||Sylvester Stallone|
|Music by||Vince DiCola
|Editing by||John W. Wheeler
|Distributed by||MGM/UA Entertainment Company|
|Running time||90 min.|
Rocky IV is a 1985 American film written by, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, and co-starring Dolph Lundgren, Burt Young, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Brigitte Nielsen, and Michael Pataki. It is the fourth and most financially successful entry in the Rocky franchise.
In the film, the Soviet Union and their top boxer make an entrance into professional boxing with their best athlete Ivan Drago who initially wants to take on World Champion Rocky Balboa. His best friend Apollo Creed decides to fight him instead, but is killed in the ring. Enraged by this, Rocky decides to fight Drago in Russia to avenge his friend and defend the honor of his country.
Critical reception was mixed, but the film earned $300 million at the box office, making it the most successful entry in the Rocky series. This film marked Carl Weathers' final appearance in the series. The film's success led to a fourth sequel released in November 16, 1990.
In 1985, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), an immensely muscular 6-foot 5, 261-pound Soviet boxer, arrives in the United States with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), and a team of trainers from the USSR and Cuba. His manager, Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki), takes every opportunity to promote Drago's athleticism as a hallmark of Soviet superiority. Motivated by patriotism and an innate desire to prove himself, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) challenges Drago to an exhibition bout. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has reservations, but agrees to train Apollo.
During a press conference regarding the match, hostility is created between Apollo and Drago's respective camps. The exhibition takes place at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Apollo enters the ring, wearing his old Uncle Sam outfit, in an over-the-top patriotic entrance with James Brown performing "Living in America". The bout starts tamely with Apollo landing several punches that have no effect on the Russian. It soon turns serious though, as Drago beats Apollo mercilessly. Apollo is in critical condition by the end of the first round. Rocky and Apollo's trainer Duke (Tony Burton) plead with him to give up, but Apollo refuses to do so, and tells Rocky not to stop the fight. The second round doesn't go any better, and despite Duke begging Rocky to throw in the towel, he honors Apollo's wish. This turns out to have fatal consequences as Drago beats Apollo so badly that he drops dead in the ring. In the immediate aftermath, Drago displays no sense of remorse commenting to the assembled media: "If he dies... he dies."
Incensed by Drago's cold indifference and feeling a deep sense of guilt, Rocky decides to avenge Apollo's death by agreeing to fight Drago in Russia on Christmas Day in an unsanctioned 15-round bout. He flies to the USSR without Adrian, setting up his training base in Krasnogourbinsk with only Duke and brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) to accompany him. To prepare for the fight, Drago uses very high-tech equipment and a team of trainers and doctors monitoring his every moment. Rocky, on the other hand, throws heavy logs, chops down trees, pulls an overloaded snow sleigh, jogs in heavy snow and treacherous icy conditions and climbs a mountain. Adrian (Talia Shire) shows up unexpectedly to give Rocky her support after initially refusing to travel to Russia because of her doubts on his fighting chances, resulting in Rocky's training having an added focus.
Drago is introduced with an elaborate, patriotic ceremony that puts the Russian crowd squarely on Drago's side, as Rocky is booed by all in attendance. In contrast to his fight with Apollo, Drago immediately goes on the offensive and Rocky takes a fierce pounding. Rocky comes back toward the end of the second and silences the Russian crowd by landing a strong right hook that cuts Drago just below his left eye. While Drago is visibly shaken, Rocky is fired up and assaults Drago, which continues even after the bell rings. While Duke and Paulie cheer Rocky for his heroism, they remind him that Drago is not a machine, but a man. Ironically, Drago comments that Rocky "is not human, he is like a piece of iron" with his own corner reprimanding him for being "weak" in comparison to the "small American."
The two boxers continue to hit each other over the next dozen rounds, with Rocky holding his ground despite Drago's powerful punches. His resilience rallies the previously hostile Soviet crowd to his side, which unsettles Drago to the point that he shoves Koloff off the ring for berating his performance. Rocky finally takes out Drago in the 15th and last round, winning by knockout to the shock of the Soviet Politburo members watching the fight. A bloody and battered Rocky gives a victory speech, acknowledging the mutual disdain at first between himself and the crowd. He says it is like the wider disdain between Russians and Americans, but that he and the crowd have come to respect and admire each other during the course of the fight. Rocky adds that the crowd has seen "two guys killin' each other, but I guess that's better than 20 million" who might die if the Cold War turned hot. Rocky finally declares, "If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change!" The Soviet General Secretary stands and passionately applauds Rocky, and his aides follow suit. Rocky ends his speech by wishing his son a Merry Christmas, and throws his arms into the air in victory as the crowd applauds.
- Sylvester Stallone - Rocky Balboa
- Dolph Lundgren - Ivan Drago
- Talia Shire - Adrian Balboa
- Burt Young - Paulie Pennino
- Carl Weathers - Apollo Creed
- Brigitte Nielsen - Ludmilla Vobet Drago
- Tony Burton - Tony "Duke" Evers
- Michael Pataki - Nicoli Koloff
- George Rogan - Sergei Igor Rimsky
- James "Canonball" Green - Manuel Vega
- Stu Nahan - Commentator #1 (Creed-Drago)
- Warner Wolf - Commentator #2 (Creed-Drago)
- R.J. Adams - Sports Announcer
- Barry Tompkins - American Commentator #1 (Rocky-Drago)
- Al Bandiero - American Commentator #2 (Rocky-Drago)
- James Brown - Himself
- Burgess Meredith - Mickey Goldmill (Archive Footage, uncredited)
Wyoming doubled for the frozen expanse of the Soviet Union. The small farm where Rocky lived and trained was in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park was used for filming many of the outdoor sequences in Russia. The PNE Agrodome at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, served as the location of Rocky's Soviet bout.
Sylvester Stallone has stated that the original punching scenes filmed between him and Dolph Lundgren in the first portion of the fight are completely authentic. Stallone wanted to capture a realistic scene and Lundgren agreed that they would engage in legitimate sparring. One particularly forceful Lundgren punch to Stallone's chest slammed his heart against his breastbone, causing the heart to swell and his breathing to become labored. Stallone, suffering from labored breathing and a blood pressure over 200, was flown from the set in Canada to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica and was forced into intensive care for eight days. Stallone later commented that he believed Lundgren had the athletic ability and talent to fight in the professional heavyweight division of boxing.
Additionally, Stallone claimed that Lundgren nearly forced Carl Weathers to quit in the middle of filming the Apollo versus Drago "exhibition" fight. In one take for the Creed–Drago fight scene, Lundgren tossed Weathers into the corner of the boxing ring. Weathers shouted profanities at Lundgren while leaving the ring and announcing that he was quitting the movie and calling his agent. Only after Stallone forced the two actors to reconcile did the movie continue. This event caused a four-day work stoppage while Weathers was talked back into the part and Lundgren had to be forced into toning down his aggressiveness.
Sportscaster Stu Nahan makes his fourth appearance in the series as commentator for the Creed–Drago fight. Warner Wolf replaces Bill Baldwin, who died following filming for Rocky III, as co-commentator. For the fight between Rocky and Drago, commentators Barry Tompkins and Al Bandiero portray themselves as USA Network broadcasters.
Apollo Creed's wife Mary Anne (Sylvia Meals) made her third and final appearance in the series, the first being Rocky II, although the character was mainly featured in Rocky II. Stallone's then-wife, Brigitte Nielsen, appeared as Drago's wife, Ludmilla.
The Soviet premier in the sky box during the Rocky–Drago match strongly resembles contemporary Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Actor David Lloyd Austin later played Gorbachev in The Naked Gun and played Russian characters in other films.
The soundtrack for the movie included "Living in America" by James Brown; the film's music was composed by Vince DiCola (who also composed the soundtrack for The Transformers: The Movie which was released the following year), and also included songs by John Cafferty ("Hearts on Fire", featuring Vince DiCola), Survivor, Kenny Loggins, and Robert Tepper. Go West wrote "One Way Street" for the movie by request of Sylvester Stallone. Europe's hit "The Final Countdown", written earlier in the decade by lead singer Joey Tempest, is often incorrectly stated as being featured in the film—no doubt due to its similarity to DiCola's "Training Montage." However, Europe's track was not released as a single until late 1986.
DiCola replaced Bill Conti as the film's composer. Conti, who was too busy with the first two Karate Kid films at the time, would return for Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. Rocky IV is the only film in the series not to feature original music by Conti. However, it does features arrangements of themes composed by Conti from the previous film in the series such as "The Final Bell". Conti's famous piece of music from the Rocky series, "Gonna Fly Now", does not appear at all in Rocky IV (the first time in the series this happened), though a few bars of it are incorporated into DiCola's training montage instrumental.
According to singer Peter Cetera, he originally wrote his best-selling solo single "Glory of Love" as the end title for this film, but was passed over by United Artists, and instead used as the theme for The Karate Kid Part II.
Rocky IV made $127.8 million in United States and Canada and $300 million worldwide, the most of any Rocky film. It was the highest-grossing sports film of all time until 2009's The Blind Side which grossed $309 million (albeit unadjusted for inflation).
The film received a 44% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, indicating mixed reviews. Dolph Lundgren received acclaim for his performance as Ivan Drago. He won the Marshall Trophy for Best Actor at the Napierville Cinema Festival. Rocky IV also won Germany's Golden Screen Award.
The film won five Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone, along with Rambo: First Blood Part II), Worst Director (Stallone), Worst Supporting Actress (Brigitte Nielsen), Worst New Star (Nielsen, along with Red Sonja) and Worst Musical Score. It also received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actress (Talia Shire), Worst Supporting Actor (Burt Young) and Worst Screenplay.
The film has generated scholarly analysis and speculation.
It is noted as an enduring fan favorite.
Paulie's Robot, an item that through the years has enjoyed a cult following of its own, was created by the International Robotics Inc. in New York City. The robot's voice was the company's CEO Robert Doornick. The robot is identified by robotic engineers as "SICO" and is/was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and toured with James Brown in the 1980s. The robot was written into the movie to help treat Stallone's son, Seargeoh. Rocky IV has been interpreted as a commentary on the power struggle between technology and humans, illustrated by both Paulie's Robot and the technology utilized by Drago.
Rocky IV has been noted as a prime example of propaganda through film, with both the stark culture contrast of Apollo's patriotic showing in Las Vegas and Drago's cold, subdued performance in the USSR and the ubiquitous yet ineffective KGB officers stationed around Balboa's cabin outside Krasnogourbinsk.
Rocky IV is one of the few sport movies that applies genuine sound effects from actual hits, bonafide training methods created by consultants and a bevy of special effects that in turn creates a film that has grown in popularity. One prominent film critic has noted not only the increase in popularity of the film over the years, but that Stallone felt (much to his chagrin) his creative powers peaked at this chapter of the saga. Stallone has also been quoted as saying the enormous financial success and fan following of Rocky IV once had him envisioning another Rocky movie devoted to Drago and his post-boxing life (although Stallone acknowledged he was in better shape, he was excommunicated from his country), with Balboa's storyline parallel. However, he noted the damage both boxers sustained in the fight made them "incapable of reason" and thus planned Rocky V as a showcase of the results, though the film failed to resolve the saga.
Scholars have examined Rocky IV and note the film's strong, yet formulaic structure that emphasizes the power of the individual, particularly an idealistic American. One author has noted the totalitarian regime Ivan Drago represents, his power demonstrated when he topples an arrogant opponent, and his subsequent defeat by the inventive, determined foe.
Stallone showcased the patriotic flair of the Balboa–Drago fight with Drago's wife calling the United States an "antogonistic and violent government" with "threats of violence" to her husband. Drago's trainer comments that American society has become "pathetic and weak."
On experiment showed after viewing the movie, some Russian subject lost self-esteem.
The script development was the subject of a famous copyright lawsuit, Anderson v. Stallone. Anderson developed a treatment for Rocky IV on spec; after the studio decided not to buy his treatment, he sued when the resulting movie script was similar to his treatment. The court held that Anderson had prepared an unauthorized derivative work of the characters Stallone had developed in Rocky I through III, and thus he couldn't enforce his unauthorized story extension against the owner of the character's copyrights.
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