After iron man Drago, a highly intimidating 6-foot-5, 261-pound Soviet athlete, kills Apollo Creed in an exhibition match, Rocky comes to the heart of Russia for 15 pile-driving boxing rounds of revenge.
“After almost four decades of tension between Washington and Moscow, by 1985 the conflict was reaching a turning point. Ronald Reagan, who earlier in the decade had escalated hardline confrontational rhetoric (labelling the USSR the “Evil Empire”) and policy (the “Star Wars” defense initiative), began shifting towards a more conciliatory attitude. Mikhail Gorbachev was preparing political and economic reforms aimed at enabling “openness” (glasnost) and “restructuring” (perestroika) in the Soviet system.
It was at this watershed moment that Stallone delivered Rocky IV, in which the hero achieves a quadruple Cold War catharsis. He defeats Soviet national pride, as the initially hostile local audience abandons its support for the Russian heavyweight and starts cheering for Rocky once they realise the latter has a better chance of winning. He defeats collectivist ideology, as Drago pushes away a concerned member of the politburo and embraces individualism by shouting: “I fight to win!
For me! For me!” Having broken the Soviet spirit, Rocky triumphs more formally by knocking down his opponent and officially winning the match.
The movie ends with a Russian crowd (including members of the politburo) applauding for Rocky, wrapped in an American flag, after he condescendingly, and with typical eloquence, tells the locals that he doesn’t find them so bad now that he has heard them cheer for him, so there is hope for peace.” Pop Matters
“And so the Rocky franchise becomes a joke. Rocky IV (1985) is a time-capsule of ’80s Cold War kitsch, where a forceful left hook can shatter the Iron Curtain. Red Dawn seems like a tasteful documentary compared to this…
Few films beat Rocky IV’s Reagan-era Red baiting. Dolph Lundgren is well-cast as Drago, a hulking menace of few words, less empathy (“If he dies, he dies!”) and exotic steroids. He’s so huge we wonder how Rocky can survive one punch, let alone fifteen rounds. Backed by Michael Pataki and then-Mrs. Stallone Brigitte Nielsen’s Boris and Natasha act, they’re cads out of a ’50s Red Scare flick. Trying to best the Godfather of Soul, the Politburo unveils a Stalin-esque poster of Drago before the climactic bout. Subtle they aren’t.
Giving Stallone some credit, it’s possible he’s intentionally comparing American patriotism and Soviet communism as two sides of the same coin. Certainly Rocky’s ungraceful détente speech (“If I can change and you can change…”) suggests as much. If so, Stallone fails miserably considering how rigged the film’s drama is. The Russians are either ranting ideologues or monosyllabic monsters; the Americans are Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.” Nothing is Written, Groggen Dundee
- 4/7 | 8:00PM