Sylvester Stallone returns to his most famous character as writer and director for this sentimental tale with a rousing climax. Again the accent is on drama with Sly piling agony and misery onto his confused hero.
Now officially retired for the sake of a pregnant Adrian (Shire), Rocky struggles to find alternative work to support the new expensive lifestyle he's lashed out on. Meanwhile Apollo Creed (Weathers) is not enjoying the joke status he's taken on since his humiliation in the ring and goads Rocky back for a rematch. Despite Rocky's bad eye, Mickey caves in and starts to train him up, only for the expectant Adrian to fall into a coma and put a stop to his comeback.
Now well over half way through the film, Sly risks driving even the most patient viewer overboard with misery. Yet this grim grounding works well, as Adrian's eventual recovery finally ignites the vital fire in Rocky. A scrap yard, dingy gym and the fabulous street run are the raw, elemental tools that are used by Stallone to re-awaken both Rocky and the audience.
The reward for the now tired and adrenaline-driven viewer is a superbly choreographed boxing bout. Apollo maintains the edge but Sly keeps Rocky dogged with the emphasis on trying to deceive the viewer as to the conclusion right until the end.
While cruder than the first film, "Rocky II" successfully drives its hero back to the underdog status needed to make the final fight as exciting and satisfying as it is.
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