There are only so many times you can tell the same “rags to riches” story about the same character, so for this second sequel to the 1976 classic, writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone shakes up the formula. Here, Rocky Balboa has become acclimatized to the good life and finds his world champion status challenged by an aggressive, unproven fighter (played by Mr. T) eager to make a name for himself. Mr. T’s performance is largely cartoonish, with the character having little to no characteristics beyond his desire to defeat Balboa, which has the unintentional effect of making his short appearances across the narrative rather silly – after all, there are only so many variations of “I’m going to beat Rocky Balboa” one can say before it starts getting repetitive. But it all pays off in the finale, with Stallone delivering another pulse-pounding climactic match that has so much energy it could resurrect a corpse, preceded by the requisite-but-effective training montage. So, while the movie’s tone takes a sharp turn this time around (at one point, Burgess Meredith’s Mickey even laments “so much for those quiet, tender moments” in what appears to be a nudge and wink to the audience) and the movie has a different atmosphere than its predecessors, it manages to deliver the goods and is a worthwhile continuation of the Balboa saga.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)