In celebration of my seeing the trailer for Rocky Balboa, or Rocky VI in which a sixty, yes, sixty year old Sylvester Stallone will be lacing them up yet again for a shot at the heavyweight championship, it’s time to revisit the greatest Rocky of them all. Not ‘Rocky’, the one that won the Oscar in 1976 for best picture, or the entertaining Rocky II in which Rocko fights his inner demons of success and absorbs fifteen rounds of abuse from Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to knock him out in the 15th round. Damn, that was a spoiler. My bad. Nor will it be the horrendous Rocky ‘I will break you’ IV or the brain damaged Rocky in Rocky V. I can only assume that his brain damage has healed in the new Rocky. No loyal reader, we’re not touching on any of those. We’re talking about Clubber Lang, arguably the greatest movie villain ever. We’re talking the death of Micky, We’re talking Thunderlips. And we’re talking about the gayest scene ever in an ‘allegedly’ non-gay movie. We’re talking ‘Rocky III’!
These are the salad years for the Rock. After dispatching with Apollo in the previous film, we get to witness Rocky knocking out scores of contenders and enjoying the fruits of being the baddest man on the planet. But there’s trouble on the horizon my friends. While Rock is in Philly eating hors d’overes, and driving fancy cars, there’s a cat from Chicago living off the land and crippling dudes. His name is Clubber Lang, played by a ferocious Mr. T. who should have, at the least, earned an Oscar nomination for this, his greatest role.
After another tomato can falls to the Rock, he announces his retirement in a press conference, but Clubber ain’t trying to hear it. He wants his shot, and why not, he’s
the number one contender. Rock kinds of skirts the big loudmouth, but when he propositions Adrian with the classic “I know you lay awake at night wishin’ you had a real man, since your man ain’t got no heart” line, Rocky tells him to bring it on. But the Mick? No way. Mick knows the Rock can’t beat this guy. Maybe a few years ago, but not today. Mick comes around though and attempts to train the Rock. Note we say attempt, because the Rock isn’t taking Clubber very serious at all. And on fight night, after Clubber rushes the Rock in the throughway and knocks down the 122 year old Burgess Meredith, Rock is really not ready to go. Clubber proceeds to beat the stuffing out him. Micky dies. Rocky quits.
Creed. He offers to train the Rock, teach him how
to move, teach how to beat this guy. Rocky is
resistant but agrees nonetheless. But his heart
just isn’t in it. And in one of many touching
scenes between two muscle bound sweaty men in tight
shorts, Rocky admits he scared. When Clubber is
asked about the challenge of a Rocky Balboa rematch he
replies, “I reject the challenge, 'cause Balboa is no
challenge, but I'll be happy to whip up on him some
more.” We love Clubber.
Well eventually Apollo brings the Rock around with the whole ‘Eye of the Tiger’ nonsense, with Rocky gaining rhythm and speed and all of those other things athletic Black guys have. It all culminates in a classic race on the beach between Rocky and Apollo. It starts out even, every muscle tensing between the two beach racers, both dressed in cut off tanks and nut-hugging short shorts. Sly, who directed this one, shot it in slow mo so we that we can catch every rippling, glistening muscle. When the Rock pulls away at the end and wins the race, both Apollo and Rocky are so elated that they run into the ocean, start splashing each other with water and proceed to wrestle / hug each other for what seemed like an eternity. My wife who’s watching the movie with me turns and stares at me for a while. Slowly, she says, that’s kinda gay. I hesitate for a moment, because I don’t recall this scene being nearly as gay when I saw it high school so many years ago. I had to agree, yup, that’s mighty gay right there.
Rocky goes on and rope a dopes Clubber senseless in a right hook fest. Nobody ever jabs are doubles up to the body in a Rocky fight. Rocks opponent throws a bunch of right hooks to the head, then to the body, then steps back and goes ‘your turn Rock’, who turns around and does the same until he knocks the guy out.
In the annals of movie history, Rocky III qualifies as probably the greatest live action cartoon ever made. Maybe challenged by Sly’s own ‘Demolition Man’. Rocky III people. Showing up at bargain racks in Wal-Mart stores across the country. Get your copy Now!