Rocky IV – Rocky vs Drago (Director’s Cut) – Review

The Rocky franchise has always been an enjoyable ride for the most part and has seen the development of the character and the actor playing Rocky as well as the directorial skills of Sylvester Stallone.

Having to rush out the release of Rocky IV in 1985 due to studio pressure, Stallone released the film unhappy about some aspects of the finished product, even if it was a very enjoyable entry into the Rocky film series. In 2021, he was given the chance to re-edit the film, add new scenes, remove some and give it the feel of what he originally wanted and what time has given him to think about in retrospect.

For those few that have not seen the film, Rocky after winning back the title from Clubber Lang in the previous installment is living a happy life with his wife and son. But when a Russian super fighter challenges America to an exhibition bout, he refuses, but his long-time friend Apollo Creed is outraged at the Russian’s attitude and decides to step into the ring to teach him a lesson.

Tragedy follows and Rocky then decides to take on Drago, the unbeatable Russian boxer, but it has to take place in the Soviet Union with an angry crowd against him.

While I was apprehensive about the new cut, the film is a guilty pleasure, I was pleasantly surprised at the difference the new cut made to the overall tone of the film. All the great bits are there, the 80s style training montages with the rock soundtrack, but other at times subtle changes make it in some ways a more emotionally enjoyable experience.

Apollo Creed’s character is much more fleshed out and when the tragedy happens you feel even more for him and his family and friends. There are 40 minutes of additional material, but some of these are different angles or takes of scenes already in the film. Both Apollo’s fight against Drago and the finale with Rocky against Drago has been reworked and re-edited, with some of the more exaggerated moves taken out. It makes the fight flow better and has more impact. In the fight against Drago, Apollo does not seem so helpless and puts up much more of a fight. Other extended sections make Drago seem a little more human and emotional, and the struggle between Rocky and his wife over the fights has been given more resonance by longer scenes. Stallone’s then-wife Bridget Nielson and Paulie, played by Burt Young, have had their parts reduced a lot and the terrible sections with the robot have been excised completely.

Another odd addition is the change in aspect ratio. The original was 1:85 -1, but this new cut is now a wider 2:35-1, and while it gives it a much more cinematic look some shots do look a little cropped in places.

Some die-hard fans may just want to stick with the original, but I would say give this version a chance, as it certainly improves on certain aspects of the films and shows how Stallone has matured as a director.

No news yet on a Blu-ray or physical media release and can only be seen by streaming, let’s hope we get a HD disc release soon.

FILM – 8 OUT OF 10

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