Classick Cinema: “Rocky V” and how I would fix it…

This post was originally a thread in the eclectik discussion forums. After reading, head over there to continue the discussion!!

I am up pretty late/early in the wee hours every night, either due to my habits (video games, netflix, reading comic books, working on the podcast and site stuff) or restless sleep (dreams of running away from a huge jar of mayonnaise or Mrs. Classick kung fu kicking me in her sleep), so sometimes I use our cable box to pass the time. Early this morning, one of the movie channels gave the Rocky movies back-to-back-to-back. I jumped on about halfway into Rocky III (the one with Mr. T) and watched Clubber Lang take pity on a sloppy and lazy Rocky Balboa. Then moved on to Rocky IV (RIP Apollo Creed) and then…

Rocky V came on…


so much wrong with this movie…

Rocky returns from his epic victory over Ivan Drago to the USA, only to find out that he has irreparable brain damage from the years of not paying attention when Mickey told him to “stick and move” or to “bob and weave” (Boxing 101).  Rocky’s also broke because Paulie signed away power of attorney to a shady business manager who lost all those years of boxing earnings via various Ponzi schemes. The Balboas find themselves back in Philadelphia, back in the old neighborhood from Rockys I & II. Adrian is even back working at the same pet shop where Rocky found her while Rocky is left restoring the old gym that Mickey bequeathed him in his will. Then the son, Rocky, Jr., who’s jumped ages inconceivably at reverse Benjamin Button rates from his birth until now, has to adjust to live away from the silver spoon he’s lived with from birth. He goes from dancing with a fancy robot in Rocky IV to getting jacked for his jacket and chain by bullies at the Philadelphia public school.

OK, other than Rocky Jr. being an annoying little snot, all seems like a decent setup for the rest of the movie, right?

Enter three terrible characters who turn this movie grade from B- to F+….

Union Cane

Arguably the world’s dumbest heavyweight champ, he for some reason wants to cement his legacy by challenging a retired and brain damaged Rocky to a fight for the title. But Cane only has six words in the movie, whereas his mouthpiece and promoter…


George Washington Duke

An obvious and shameless rip-off of real-life promoter Don King, Duke sees dollar signs everywhere and is trying hard to tempt Rocky to take on Union Cane, even to the point of bringing gifts and trying to bribe the Balboas into it. As Rocky continues to refuse, however, Duke sees another opportunity in the third of the worst characters to ever grace the Rocky franchise…


Tommy Gunn

Played by real-life Great White Hype boxer Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, Gunn appears about a quarter of the way into the movie as a young farmboy who moves out to Philly of all places to try and train under the tutelage of the great Rocky Balboa. After showing up everywhere Rocky does for a few days, Rocky finally takes Tommy under his wing and teaches him everything boxing-wise that Mickey, Apollo and Duke (Apollo’s trainer, taking over in Rocky IV) taught him. But he does so at the expense of ignoring his son’s needs (stupid sitcom subplot) and building up to the predictable betrayal by Tommy Gunn. After some amount of success fighting with Rocky in his corner, the rapidly rising Tommy Gunn falls under the spell of G.W. Duke (all it took was a limo ride, a piece of tail and some car keys? Really, dude?) and defects to fake Don King’s camp. It’s with fake Don King that Tommy soundly rocks Union Cane’s jaw, wins the title and then challenges Rocky to a streetfight

Wait, say what?? We paid good money for tickets plus popcorn all ready to see Stallone fight IN THE RING as Rocky once more, and they reduce his action in this one to a STREET FIGHT?? Who the hell wrote this dogshit, Capcom???!!

OK, synopsis aside, here’s what I’d fix to make this movie respectable…

1. Union Cane needs to be recast, and as a bad-ass…  think Clubber Lang remixed for the 90s. I’d have brought in a young Michael Jai White (not yet Spawn) or someone who can utter more than six words from the script. With fake Don King as his promoter, Cane should’ve been THE villain in that movie, not Tommy Morrison


2. OK, so Tommy Gunn was a pain in the ass. Maybe you do keep him as Rocky’s protege, but similar to when Apollo goes “I got this!” and gets killed by Drago, the script needs to be that Tommy fights newly bad-assed Black Dynamite Union Cane and gets either killed, crippled or severely beaten in the ring. Make the excuse that even though he was training under Rocky, he was also distracted by the lures of fake Don King. Maybe have fake Don King orchestrate one of the foxy ladies he deployed to slip a mickey (no pun intended) in Tommy’s drink the night before the fight, rendering him drowsy and wide open to a Union Cane asswhoopin.
Yes, Rocky V could’ve easily borrowed this scene from No Holds Barred and been a better movie…

3. Destroy the subplot with Rocky’s son. Not completely, but the whole “Dad, you don’t pay me any attention anymore!” crap is BS. This man went and got multiple concussions and brain damage to put food in your mouth and a roof on your head, you little shit! Have him get his coat stolen like in the movie and when he goes and fights the bullies back for his stuff, have him run to Rocky like before only to get admonished for resorting to violence. Let Rocky repeat the “I fight so you don’t have to!” speech and leave it at that.
It’s OK, kid… we’ll buy you a new 8-ball jacket…

4. No change with Adrian. Although to some audiences she seems like an annoyance or a hindrance to Rocky, she’s his anchor and his motivation each and every movie, so let her do what she does.
Adrian Balboa… the original pet shop girl…

5. Fake Don King gotta go. I like the idea of an evil boxing promoter and the commentary on how they ruin the sport, but let’s have it be less apparent that this guy is fake Don King. and that whole “touch me and I’ll sue” bit in the movie, that’s also gotta go. Maybe cast someone else in that role (Morgan Freeman?) and make him a bit more devious and intellectual. The cheap frills stuff just makes the movie look even more stupid.

Morgan Freeman.jpg

6. The ending takes place IN THE RING not on the street. Maybe it’s a hastily set-up fight where Rocky challenges Union Cane for the title in a revenge match for the sake of Tommy, who’s now on life support. Cue the Rocky training montage with Duke barking orders and Rocky lifting tree trunks while climbing the Pocono Peaks or something, I don’t know. But the final fight needs to be old, battered and determined Rocky taking on a younger, faster and stronger Union Cane (think what we got in Rocky Balboa), only this time Rocky wins the fight,the title and in the message of this Rocky film, it’s at a cost…
How every Rocky movie should end…

7. After defeating Union Cane and then punching out Fake Don King, Rocky either turns into a vegetable or dies… the brain damage becomes too much and this becomes Rocky’s final fight. In his hometown of Philadelphia, in front of his family and friends, Rocky finds redemption and also inspires a city once more. Tommy recovers from his injuries and now feeling indebted to Rocky, takes up the mantle (and the stars n stripes shorts) and trains with Duke to become the next “Rocky”. This sets up your reboot series of films and gives Rocky a proper send-off. Also extends the movie by another 20-30 minutes for the death and the funeral procession through the streets of Philadelphia.


8. The soundtrack… OK, this was 1990, and even though there were tracks on here by Snap! (I’ve got the Power, Snap??? hmmm…), MC Hammer and Philadelphia native Joey B. Ellis, it still underwhelmed in my opinion. The theme track that was featured in the trailers and TV ads, “Go For It”, was rapped by Ellis and the hooks sung by Tynetta Hare, but if you listened w/o checking the liner notes you could swear it was a cross between Snap! lyrics over an MC Hammer track. Was music this wack back in 1990? Ellis went on to become MC Breeze, but maybe there was another Philadelphia music act available that could provide some more entertaining and catchy tunes?


OK, sure they didn’t debut until 1991, but still… I’d have had them somewhere on the soundtrack and cut a deal with Michael Bivins and Motown to make it happen. There’s an idea… why not get Motown to do the soundtrack? Anything but what we got…. Snap!…. really? Y’all couldn’t have gotten Chill Rob G???

And that, my friends, is how you change Rocky V from an F+ movie to a B+ movie…

This post was originally a thread in the eclectik discussion forums. Head over there to continue the discussion!!

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