2006-12-29 / Sports

Rocky Rises From Canvas To Connect On Last Knockout

By John J. Buro

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa gives a right hand to Mason Dixon, who is played by Antonio Tarver. Photo by Sony Pictures.Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa gives a right hand to Mason Dixon, who is played by Antonio Tarver. Photo by Sony Pictures. If enough imprints of a movie are created, eventually it will arrive full circle. ‘Rocky Balboa’ –the sixth installment of Sylvester Stallone’s title character, which cost a projected $24 million to make- is such a movie.

Balboa, now a widower, is a Philadelphia restaurateur with a fire in his belly. The burning inside him had nothing to do with the Italian food prepared by his Mexican chef but, rather, everything to do with the need for one last fight. Antonio Tarver, a former light heavyweight boxer, portrays Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon, the current undefeated champion whose propensity for fighting unproven opponents has become a big issue in the public eye.

When ESPN’s Brian Kenny hosts a simulated ‘Then vs. Now’ match pitting Balboa against Dixon, more than a passing interest is stirred.

While Rocky reapplies for a boxing license with the intention of a low-level fight, Dixon’s advisors see a huge payday. The champion, not looking to “beat up an old man,” only relents when he is told there is no other competition out there.

During a chance meeting at Adrian’s [the establishment named for Balboa’s late wife], the promoters make their intentions known. They look to bill the match as an exhibition, with a portion of the proceeds designated for charity.

Along the way, the audience is reintroduced to several familiar characters. The most prominent is Adrian [Talia Shire], who is remembered through a series of flashbacks. Paulie [Young] is still a knockaround guy, except that years of guilt have finally gotten the better of him. Rocky’s son, Robert, Jr. [here, Ventimiglia replaces Sage Stallone] confesses that he is tortured by the family name, and the shadow his father continues to cast. Duke [Tony Burton] returns to train the 60 year-old Stallone one last time. Even Spider Rico -a club fighter who had battled Rocky before Apollo Creed stepped in- has resurfaced.

Lastly, there is ‘Little Marie,’ who –as a teenager thirty years ago responded to Rocky’s advice by shouting, “Screw you, creepo!” This time, Marie, who is now a single mother, is more acceptable of his friendship. Though there are scenes which could’ve been eliminated, the obligatory montage, during the in-ring sequence, is a keeper. The build-up to the fight –a Las Vegas extravaganza that was filmed during the Middleweight Championship rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor in December 2005- and the subsequent event are worth hanging around for.

But, this movie is not so much about who wins. It is more about what it takes to win. Rocky Balboa, -both the movie and the boxer- has survived for three decades with dignity and heart, and has proven to be an everlasting champion. Rocky Balboa is a partnership between Revolution Studios, Columbia Pictures and MGM. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Milo Ventimiglia and Geraldine Hughes. The film is produced by Stallone, with Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. Running Time: 102 minutes. Rating: PG.

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