Remember Roy and I made the decision to do one sold script a week, and now we have the pleasure of introducing our first Reader Review thanks to Eric Dickson. I’ve reviewed it also, so once done here please click over for a 9 questions review.
Anyway, away we go!
Rocky: Puncher’s Chance is one of those writer/director scripts that looks like a production draft, minus specific camera direction and scene numbers. It’s Stallone’s initial vision poured out on page, much like his original “Rocky”. And I dig that. This doesn’t seem polished or overwritten. You get the feeling that he just sat down and started writing until this thing was done. There’s a real rawness to it that closely resembles the blue collar streets of Philadelphia itself that is featured so predominantly in the script.
I dig that Stallone writes his own signature brand of “street prose” with shortened, accented and often underlined words to really get you caught up in the meaning of these words, the passion behind them and the personalities of the characters who are speaking them. From the opening sequence at Adrian’s grave, we read a quick exchange between Rocky and Paulie and are immediately taken back to the original series and why we grew to love these characters. It’s as if they never left us.
So we’re only a couple pages in and we already have a fix on things.
First — Mason “The Line” Dixon is the heavyweight champion by default, hated by the public for taking easy bouts and not fighting worthy opponents. Stallone spends all of the first page pelting Dixon with ice cubes from a booing crowd while a voice over by two commentators explains, in the simplest terms, why Dixon is so unpopular with the fans.
“Another inferior opponent rendered unconscious” .
Right away, we know how and why Rocky will come into Dixon’s life. Rocky is the worthy opponent and his return will once again bring the boxing fans to their feet.
Second — Rocky is seen sitting before Adrian’s grave. We know right away that her character will not be present in this installment, and mourning her loss will play a major role in the development of Rocky’s character.
Third — Rocky Junior (Robert) isn’t at the grave with his father and Paulie. This is mentioned in the opening exchange between the two friends. We get the feeling that their relationship has become estranged over the years, quite possibly due to Adrian’s death.
After a couple short pages, the seeds of our story have already been planted.
As we read further, we see that Rocky is now running a restaurant where memories of his former life hang on the wall like ghosts from his past. He’s asked by the diners to tell stories from the ring about his first bouts with Apollo and his days with Mickey. This is fantastic. Stallone has figured out a simple way to keep Apollo and Mickey very much involved in the Rocky saga, even years after their characters deaths. This is both nostalgic and sad. You feel the emotion in the words and in his voice as he tells these stories to the guests. The restaurant is the closest thing to keeping the dream alive for Rocky. As for the reader…we get two things from this. A nostalgia trip and a reason to feel for our protagonist. This is a Rocky now living completely in the past. With his career, and loving wife, now gone…we feel a great sadness for this character right away.
At the restaurant Rocky attempts a phone call to Robert which immediately goes to voice mail. Again, Robert is mentioned but nowhere to be seen. Something is wrong with this relationship and it will play a vital role in our story.
We move onto a great scene between Mason Dixon and his old trainer Martin – his go to guy before money, fame and a well paid staff of managers and trainers took his place. In light of his own fans turning on him, Mason is going back to where he started – back to the old gym before the life took him over. Just as Mickey did with Rocky – Martin warns Dixon about the price of fame and fortune over self-respect. This is reminiscent of Rocky III where Mickey explains how Rocky’s gotten civilized since he first won the title from Apollo Creed. There’s one piece of dialogue here from Martin that will be the turning point for our three lead characters: Rocky, Mason Dixon, and Robert Balboa. Here it is…
“Cause ya got everythin’ money can buy – ‘cept what it can’t – why the hell you care? Man without pride what ya got? – That’s what got your ass outta here, losin’ it brung it on back. Them people ’round you done too good a job protectin their meal ticket, know what I’m sayin’? Livin’ easy, for some men who don’t give a damn, that’s good, that be okay, people like you, they gotta pull themselves wide open an’ see what’s livin’ inside”.
This is the most important dialogue in the script. It’s what drives both Rocky and Mason Dixon toward their goals. Both men must face obstacles that are bigger than themselves. Not for money, or fame and fortune. But to win. To reach down inside and pull something from inside yourself that you forgot was there.
“I still got something left in the basement”, Rocky says to Paulie.
This is the only way Rocky and Dixon will find inner peace and once again gain their self-respect. It’s also the one area of Robert’s life that he’s struggling with the most.
Now we take another trip down nostalgia lane with Rocky and Paulie as they re-visit all the places Rocky took Adrian on their first date. Paulie quickly grows frustrated with the depressing experience:
“Change the channel from yesterday! Yesterday wasn’t so great!” And Rocky says “It was to me!”
Another reminder that Rocky is permanently stuck in the past.
Rocky and Mason are soon pushed toward the inevitable. They are talked into a huge Las Vegas bout after some shifty promoters stage a computer fantasy match between the two fighters. As Rocky fights for his self-respect and Dixon his self-image, Robert learns of the impending Vegas bout – which only fuels his jealousy of Rocky and the name he’s made for himself . The truth behind Rocky and Robert’s broken relationship comes to a head when Robert confronts his father about how difficult it’s been sharing his name. The script’s central message is clear in the dialogue between Rocky and his son here:
“It’s a rough very mean world, it punches hard an ya gotta punch back or roll over. You got no choice how you come in, but it’s your choice how you go out”.
Basically, life’s too hard to make excuses. It’s about fighting back and coming out on top. That’s how winning is done. This is what Rocky and Dixon are both fighting for. Robert soon comes around and decides to help his father train for the Vegas bout.
Stallone realized for “Rocky Balboa” to be a success, he would have to go back to the beginning. Back to the same streets from the original film. To revisit old characters like Spider Rico, Duke and Little Marie from the Atomic Hoagie Shop.
To me… Little Marie was a nice reminder of Rocky’s sweetness from the original film. After he’s bombarded by a group of young street punks, he offers to walk home Little Marie while sharing some brotherly advice about “protecting your rep on the street”. If you remember from Rocky 1, Marie quickly flips him off, says “Screw you, creepo” and jets inside her apartment. I LOVE that Stallone decided to put her back in this script. It’s like Rocky’s second chance at helping this young street urchin that gave him the cold shoulder thirty years earlier. He’s back where he started and around the same people who were in his life on the eve of his fame and stardom.
Rocky: Puncher’s Chance is a real trip down memory lane and the proper send-off to an iconic character. There’s also a lot to take out of this story that lends itself to everyday life and how we deal with our own issues and problems. For that reason, it’s not only a great sequel, but a great family film with a little bit for everybody.
The only downfall. Stallone brings Clubber Lang back into the picture as a color commentator during the final fight. He’s way too happy and funny which is not only a distraction to the fight, it’s not the character we learned to hate in the greatest Rocky film of them all — ROCKY III!
Thanks again Eric, and to our other readers feel free to check below for my review. (I’ve hidden Easter Eggs in it!)
Also please feel free to check out Eric’s newest project here.