Sylvester Stallone stars in the classic film he wrote about small-time boxer Rocky Balboa, who's given a shot at the big time. Everyone's written him off, including himself, declaring "I'm really a ham and egger" when offered the chance to compete for the heavyweight championship of the world.
For him, boxing is only a part-time occupation with his days spent, as his disgusted trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) describes, as a "cheap, second-rate loan shark". The current champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) spots a chance to gain publicity by letting a real underdog gun for the top prize. Rocky is chosen exactly for those qualities and not because anyone thinks he'll win.
This is very much "David and Goliath" territory with Stallone giving the type of punch-drunk performance that captures the viewers' hearts when the whole world seems stacked against him. The addition of a hesitant relationship developing between Rocky and the shy Adrian (Talia Shire) helps ensure that once Rocky starts his training, the audience is firmly in his corner.
The memorable combination of the torturous gym workouts, the runs through the streets of Philadelphia and the carcass-beating in the abattoir all combine beautifully as Balboa trains "to eat lightning and crap thunder".
Once the big fight comes we've seen Rocky endure so much that it seems like a miracle he ever got there. This base of gritty and compulsive drama lends a real tension to the exciting bout that crowns this tender and moving film.
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