Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – A More Grounded Cut of the Goofy Classic – Film Review

Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago - Rotten Tomatoes

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, and Dolph Lundgren

Rating: ★★★★

Just over 35 years after the release of the original Rocky IV, Stallone has gone back to the editing room with more experience, wisdom, and confidence to present the film in the best way possible. He wasn’t entirely happy with the original cut, feeling it was too rushed and he was too worried about boring the audience. It’s finally been released, and it’s a lot more grounded than the original release.

Essentially, it’s still the same story. Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and his team want to challenge Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) to a fight, to introduce Drago to America. Instead of Rocky, Apollo (Carl Weathers) takes the challenge, ultimately losing and dying as a result to his injury. Rocky feels responsible and travels to Russia to take on Drago in the ring.

There’s no real difference in the story, other than it feels more real and personal. It’s longer than the original cut but feels a lot tighter and more focused. Gone is the silly and goofiness of the original, apart from some of Drago’s classic lines that remain. There’s no robot, and a lot of the over-the-top lifestyle that Rocky is living is cut down. Instead, we get a greater focus on why Apollo wants to fight Drago in the first place. There’s a lot added at the beginning that really shows Apollo’s mission to prove himself one last time and go down in the history books. It feels a lot closer tonally to the original Rocky than the theatrical version of IV. It still a high-octane montage filled rush, but with a more focus on character and dramatic plot beats that gets you more invested in the story.

Drago is also made more human in this, instead of just being the unbreakable machine. Apollo manages to hurt him, and there’s a few more lines of dialogue that Drago speaks that really humanises him towards the end. Don’t worry, it still has the classic moments like ‘if he dies, he dies’, that still feel just as goofy as they did the first time round. Some of the side characters are also almost completely removed, including Rocky’s son and Drago’s wife. Paulie is also reduced to just comic relief, playing no real part in the story.

By cutting the side characters and robot sub-plots, it gives more time to focus on the drama of the situation. Apollo’s funeral is longer, which is one of the more emotional moments. There’s more communication between Rocky and Adrian before he travels to Russia. There’s still time for the montages, which are slightly different and still the perfect workout motivation. Another big change is the opening. It’s a much longer re-telling of the third Rocky film, giving more focus on the relationship between Rocky and Apollo, to really drive home what they mean to each other.

The new release is a lot better than the original version. Rocky IV is incredibly over-the-top and unintentionally funny. Not everything can be fixed in the editing room over three decades later, but Stallone has done a great job with this one. On top of the film release, there’s also a feature length documentary on YouTube, which is essential viewing for any Stallone/Rocky fan. Stallone really goes into detail about how he’s changed over the years, what he thinks are the flaws in the film and how he would do things differently if he could go back.

It’s a really interesting insight into the filmmaking process and is really worth checking out. He goes into detail about how he wouldn’t kill Apollo if he rewrote it now, and how that would change the events of the film and sequels leading to a more interesting storyline. Both the film and documentary are a welcome addition to the Rocky franchise, that against all odds is still punching 45 years after Rocky was released.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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