Plot: While Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) triumphed over Ivan Drago in Russia, his return to the United States was not followed by a triumphant series of events. His best friend had already passed on, but now Rocky finds himself with brain trauma from his years of being knocked around and thanks to Paulie (Burt Young) having power of attorney, the family’s financial situation is beyond dire. Some bad investments bankrupt the Balboa family, forcing them to move from their mansion back to the heart of Philadelphia, a place Rocky knows quite well. Rocky reopens the old gym he once trained at and while it has seen better days, he finds some fulfillment inside its walls and looks forward to working with young talent. When he meets rising star Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) and begins to train him, Rocky slowly starts to invest less time at home, which begins to weight on his family. Is Tommy the new champion Rocky believes he can be and if so, what will it cost Rocky to help him ascend to greatness?
Entertainment Value: This is easily the weakest of the Rocky movies, a mediocre and forgettable installment that failed to give the character a proper sendoff. That was remedied in Rocky Balboa and the Creed films, but for a time, this lackluster picture was Rocky’s swan song. The narrative makes sense, Rocky training the next generation, but it is poorly executed here and Tommy Morrison just wasn’t the right choice, as he is super flat and unlikable. The elements that focus on Rocky and his inner turmoil work fairly well, but things grind to a crawl whenever focus switches to Morrison or Sage Stallone, neither of whom have competent threads. In short, this should have and could have worked, but the wrong pieces were shoehorned in and that is what sinks Rocky V, leaving it an uneven mess at times. I can still revisit this sequel, despite all the issues, just because Stallone is always good as Rocky, but it is a shame this stands out as the lame duck of the franchise. If you’re a Rocky fanatic, you’ll likely have this one in your collection, but it barely belongs alongside the other entries.
One reason this movie works as well as it does is Sylvester Stallone, who is so at home and natural as Rocky, even this weak material seems passable at times. He brings his usual great effort in the role, making the best of the scenes with his less talented costars and conveying the magic of Rocky, even when the script and supporting players don’t bolster his presence. He is able to keep you interested throughout and regardless of how inconsistent most of Rocky V is, Stallone ensures there is reason to revisit it, especially if you’re doing a full series revisit. So even if the movie overall is a disappointment, it is always good to see Stallone in his signature role. Tommy Morrison on the other hand, is wooden and unlikable, even in the scenes where we are supposed to root for him. This makes it tough to invest in his part of the story arc, though it is nice to root for him to get his ass kicked. The cast also includes Burt Young, Talia Shire, Sage Stallone, Tony Burton, and Burgess Meredith.