Amateur boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is riding high on his last bout, which just happened to be one of the most talked about matches in America. This was where he was plucked from obscurity to fight with heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), and although nobody predicted the so-called Italian Stallion would win, they were delighted to see him have a pretty good try, leaving him much respected after going the distance though Apollo was declared the winner by the end. But the champ is not satisfied, so when word gets around that Rocky should have won, he demands a rematch...
As in life for its star, the first Rocky movie was a surprise, runaway success for Stallone, but he found that after that megahit he had trouble getting audiences interested in his other pet projects, gritty dramas Paradise Alley (maybe it was his singing that put them off) and F.I.S.T., with its union-based dilemmas. So the obvious thing to do was give in to the pressure and make another Rocky flick, which was probably why this sequel stuck so close to the formula set down by the 1976 work, and indeed by many sporting melodramas from years preceeding it. The result was another megahit, as if all audiences wanted to see was more of the same from this filmmaker.
Something Stallone was only too happy to agree with, as long as it kept his star in the Hollywood firmament and not sinking into obscurity with his non-successes, which number quite a few. So it's appropriate that Rocky should be depicted as a comeback "kid" through his franchise, or perhaps that was Stallone writing what he knew, but up until Rocky V flopped when he tried something different with the role, it was as if nothing would prevent him from making more. Of course, even after the fourth sequel he was persuaded to get back in the ring for the twenty-first century Rocky Balboa, another which set the box office tills ringing.
But that last outing for the boxer suffered the same problem as Rocky II did: a heavy "get on with it" factor. This was due to Stallone apparently believing that there was somebody in the audience who genuinely thought that Balboa was going to turn down one final match, so he played up to them, if they actually existed, and dragged out the story on the ploy that poor old Rock wasn't sure if he should get back in the ring, and Adrian (Talia Shire) wouldn't like it, and what if his health suffers even more, and oh for heaven's sake just get on with the fight! It was that teasing that made this instalment one of the lesser ones, notably in light of the next two sequels being so ridiculous and therefore more enjoyable.
In this one Rocky and Adrian get married, and over the course of the year it takes place she becomes pregnant, the cue for Stallone to aim straight for the tearducts when after the baby is born premature she falls into a coma, an example of shameless manipulation that did not go over well with everyone. Couple that to having to render the protagonist an underdog once again, so having his, let's face it, stupidity be a major drawback was laboured to the point of absurdity: see the scene where he films a commercial which he thinks will be his source of income for the forseeable future but is left stymied by the "idiot boards" he has to read from. Fortunately there was the irascible Mickey (Burgess Meredith) returning too, and he was not going to tolerate any of that nonsense, knowing full well that you don't have a Rocky movie without a big punch up at the end. So that's what we got, and it was the highlight, but no more than we deserved after all that footling around. Music by Bill Conti, with theme present and correct.