I'm back, now that my class is over, the blog is coming back full force, or half force, I don't know, we'll see what kind of force I can muster when it's 115 degrees outside. Anyway, today is the 4th of July and I'm watching the most American of movies, Rocky IV.
Some people might say there are more representative examples of American movies. It's obviously not the best or even a relatively good film. Even among the Rocky movies it isn't the best, it isn't even one of the two best. But it is so intensely Pro American that it is a perfect movie for the 4th.
Rocky IV came out in 1985, firmly rooted in the Cold War and Reagan-y Russkie shit. The plot is as inane as you might imagine. At the beginning Rocky is living high on the hog, after defeating Clubber Lang at the end of Rocky III, he has parlayed his successful boxing career into a huge mansion and comfortable life style. He's so fucking rich he buys Pauly a robot for his birthday. Does Pauly want or need a robot for his birthday? No and no. Do we want to see Pauly get a robot for his birthday? No, no one cares. Soon the existence of a Russian super boxing freak becomes known to our friends, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. The now retired Creed feels compelled to challenge Ivan Drago, played with resounding aplomb by Dolph Lundgren. Rocky counsels against it but, like most of us after receiving counsel from Sylvester Stallone, he decides to do the opposite. Appollo sets up an exhibition match against the Red Manimal (my own better nickname for him) because he feels a dire need to represent America.
The exhibition match is one of the most ridiculous depictions of a sporting event ever captured on film. First of all, it's an exhibition match which means, what? It means it doesn't fucking count. So why is Apollo arriving on some sort of floating stage dancing around with James Brown singing Living In America. The only thing good about that song is what Weird Al Yankovic did to it, Living with a Hernia is one of his serious Jams. Drago just stands in the ring while Apollo makes a fool of himself. Then he kills him in the second round. Literally. Drago rains blows upon his head and face unchecked by any defense whatsoever. In between rounds, Apollo implores Rocky to not throw the towel in no matter what. So he doesn't and the only friend he's ever had dies because Rocky is stupid. I'd like to take a second here and point out that just before Apollo takes the last of the beating that ends his weird life, the referee tries to intervene and stop the fight. Drago flings him aside callously and returns to pummeling Apollo's life force from his body. First, how is that not a criminal act? And second, how was he ever allowed to box again? Who sanctioned the next fight? No boxing organization would ever let that happen.
Well, Rocky decides to fight him instead of trying to have him arrested and sent to prison. But he has to fight him in Russia for some reason, probably because Drago is a murderer and there's obviously no extradition in Russia. Rocky takes his team to Russia and, in one of the all time greatest montages, he begins to train by running in the snow and lifting rocks in a net. Drago, of course, is using all of the hyper modern secret science techniques that we were all afraid of in the 80's. It's supposed to demonstrate America's gumption, no nonsense determination, and ingenuity that got us to the top. Really he just looks like an idiot chopping down an old growth tree in the middle of someone else's country. How American. During the montage, Drago repeatedly hang cleans around 500 pounds which would put him in the Olympics every year and he punches a machine that says the power of his punches is 2150 pounds per sq inch. So, you know, twice as hard as Mike Tyson.
Just before the fight starts, Drago delivers my favorite line in all of the Rocky movies, "I will break you." I cheered when he said it this time. By cheered, I mean said, "Awesome," quietly to myself. So the fight is basically exactly what you expect. Rocky takes about seventy blows straight to the dead, meat filled dome and then starts fighting back. At one point, Drago claims he isn't human and that he is, in fact, "a piece of iron." I think what he probably meant was that he had the personality of a piece of iron but something might have been dropped in translation. At some point towards the end of the fight, the Russian crowd begins chanting for Rocky. That's probably the most unbelievable part of the whole movie. Obviously, America, I mean Rocky, wins the fight and American dominance is restored to the fictitious boxing world. Then he gives a speech where he claims to have been "thinking" during the fight. That's a laugh. Then the movie ends.
This viewing of Rocky IV was enhanced by Lauren's insistence that, in this installment of the Rocky saga, Dustin Hoffman should have been cast as Rocky. She offered no reasoning but I had to concur that I would have enjoyed watching Dustin Hoffman cut a giant tree down.