The 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.
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!