Since his win against the Soviet Union's top fighter, American champion boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) saw his life begin to crumble. For a start, after the bout he could not stop his hands shaking and though he managed to get that under control, it was clear there was something not quite right about his health since the battering he had suffered. Not that this stopped promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) from needling him for another world championship match, but the fact remained he would have to hang up his gloves...
And after this no wonder, as writer and star Stallone was suffering his own slump in popularity, not for the first time as he had enjoyed more comebacks than Gloria Swanson, it's just that Rocky V was not one of those. The only one of the series to lose money, it wasn't the first time he would misjudge his audience and what they wanted, but it was perhaps unfortunate that he should do so with his best-liked character as here he tried to bring the drama back to basics after the bombast of the eighties instalments. He even brought back the original director John G. Avildsen to helm, though many wondered how strong his guiding hand had been.
As it was, after Stallone made Rocky the subject of a comeback of his own in the 21st Century with Rocky Balboa, there was a renewed interest in the series, and seeing that the actual final one was not part five perhaps there was a certain relief that the punch drunk pugilist was not going to go out on a flop, but a hit instead. Therefore this was also reassessed, and some found it not to be as bad as its reputation, which was fairly accurate, but then neither was it much good either. It was just as if Stallone had seen what he thought were the best aspects of the original and translated that into an avalanche of hard to take sentimentality, leaving the endlessly chuntering Rocky looking sappy.
Another reason why this wasn't well received was that it wasn't the lead character doing the boxing, for he had a protege in the shape of Tommy Gunn, played by actual professional Tommy Morrison who went on to rather more notoriety than he found here when he claimed to be HIV positive, then that he had been misdiagnosed after his career went down the dumper. Here he wasn't going to win any awards for acting, but he served his purpose well enough as he could convincingly throw a punch, as Rocky became his manager but neglected his own son in the process. Enter another reason why this wasn't looked on fondly.
That was Stallone's actual son Sage Stallone playing Robert Balboa, and there could have been few at the time questioning precisely how he landed that role. He subsequently went on to win the hearts of grindhouse movie fans everywhere by resurrecting some choice horror titles and the like for DVD, but that was in his future: here he was never going to catch a break even if he had acted his dad off the screen. Which some people thought he did, but only because Sly was so overdoing it with the man of the people shtick as Rocky and his family are victim to bad finances and end up back in Philadelphia where they began, back down to earth with a bump, but at least conveying the idea that violence was the answer to all life's problems. So not only does Robert beat the bullies with his fists, but Rocky regains his stature, not in the boxing ring but in a street fight for the grand finale. Throw in the apparent ghost of Burgess Meredith, and watch as Gant's aggressive promoter stole the movie, and you had one for the fans - well, those who made it their business to see every one in this franchise. Music by Bill Conti.