Innumeracy in Rocky

XXXThe original Rocky is a great film. You probably find that strange because I’m such a pretentious arty kind of pedant. But that’s the whole point. You see, Rocky is not a boxing movie. The film has little to do with boxing. It is about a man who finally takes charge of his life. And this, perhaps more than anything else, is why the later film range from okay to horrible. Let’s see, if I had to order them from best to worst: II, V, VI, III, IV. [Note on Rocky VI]

Another thing that makes the film great is the love story between these two fragile, beaten souls. The seduction scene is the sweetest of its kind I’ve ever seen.

“I always knew you was pretty,” Rocky says.

“Don’t tease me,” Adrian says as if the thought had never occurred to her.

“I’m not teasing. I ain’t teasin’ ya,” he says, staring into her eyes. “I wanna kiss you. You don’t have to kiss me back if you don’t want. But I wanna kiss you.”

Dialog like that could go all wrong, of course. It is only because both characters are so clearly and deeply wounded by the world that we know these two are meant for each other, both objectively and in their minds.

It is best, however, not to watch the film too often. Because if you do, your mind will start to wander. Like after the opening fight scene where the fight promoter comes in the locker room to pay Rocky.

Balboa, you get winner’s share: six-five dollars. Less fifteen dollar locker and corner man, five dollar shower and towel, and seven percent tax comes to forty fifty-five.

Let’s see now: 65 minus 15 minus 5 equals 45. Seven percent of 45 is 70 cents times 4 plus 35 cents. That’s $3.15. So the total is $41.85. That can’t be right.

The 7% must be off the gross. So 7% of $65 is 70 cents times 6 plus 35 cents. That’s $4.55. So the total is $40.45. Ten cents too much!

There are three possibilities here. The best one is that Sylvester Stallone is such a great writer that he knew that the promoter of this little hole in the wall boxing joint would make such a mistake, and it was put there on purpose. It seems unlikely, but he wrote a great script, so it’s possible.

The second possibility is that Billy Sands, the actor who played the promoter, flubbed the line. Either no one noticed or the best take was the one with the wrong amount. “It’s just ten cents! Only a freak would notice that!” Indeed.

The third possibility is that Stallone did the calculation wrong when he was writing.

And yes, I am perfectly aware that none of this matters. But now that I’ve cleared up this issue, my mind is clear. Of course, there is that whole issue of math in Shakespeare in Love—although they got it right, but it is interesting. Stay tuned!


Note: After Rocky IV came out, Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki was so annoyed that he made a short film parody of it called Rocky VI. He said of the film, “My revenge on Mr Stallone, who I think is an asshole.” Enjoy!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Innumeracy in Rocky

  1. Looking for the amounts in question, I googled the line "Balboa, you get winner’s share" and happened upon this post (currently the #2 result).

    FWIW, here’s the text that appears in Stallone’s final draft (according to http://www.awesomefilm.com/script/rocky.html):

    "… Twenty bucks for the locker an’ cornerman — Two bucks for the towel an’ shower, seven for tax — The house owes ya, sixty-one dollars."

    (Seems that, among other things, the winner’s share shrunk a bit between the writing and the shooting.)

  2. @Dan – Thanks for that! Great comment.

    My best guess, thought, is that Billy Sands flubbed the line. I always figured that with the speed of the shoot it just wasn’t worth going back and redoing. They certainly had a veteran script supervisor, although she wasn’t necessarily there for that scene. Anyway, the performance is great. I think that Avildsen is a brave director and if the take worked, "Moving on…" As I recall, the scene in Adrian’s bedroom where she asks if Rocky wants a roommate was a single take.

    I’ll have to read the script, I never have.

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