Run Time: 93 Minutes
What To Expect: An inferior alternate version, with off-key pacing, but still fascinating and good
For some reason, when 30+ minutes of new footage was hyped for Sylvester Stallone’s director’s cut of Rocky IV, I thought that meant 30+ minutes of additional footage, not 30 or so minutes of altered footage. It is a strange thing to do to what is an already borderline perfect manly movie – and one that seems slightly jarring and fairly unnecessary. Yet still, fascinating…
Everyone knows the story to this movie. Rocky Balboa defeats Clubber Lang in their second bout (but never has a third match to truly settle things, hmm…), after gaining an unexpected ad-hoc mentor in Apollo Creed. Then, an over the hill Creed attempts to fight his washed-up insecurities in the fourth movie by taking on deadly Soviet newcomer Ivan Drago, to meet an untimely death in the ring, which Rocky must avenge by defeating Drago himself.
In his production vlogs for this cut, Stallone has almost spoken of the original with a slight hint of contempt, singling out the pacing in particular. There is no doubt that the fourth film stands out among its prequels and sequels as an entirely balls-out relentless blitzkrieg of testosterone and many of us might have been curious to what a longer, more dramatic version of this movie might have looked like. But instead of adding footage, Stallone has replaced footage, much of it interesting but also out of place.
The problem is that it’s hard to ‘mature up’ a film like this, while locking it down to 90 minutes.
The pacing is way off. First, we get a Rocky III recap that is far too long, about ten minutes. What this actually does is cut Rocky IV the movie, in effect, down to 80 minutes, with the slower and more introspective changes taking place mostly in the first half. These often jolt abruptly back up to the speed of the theatrical cut; there are longer talks between Rocky and Apollo, but two back-to-back 80’s excess training montages remain? Some of the conversations appear choppy as well, as if ended mid-conversation, almost for the sake of being different.
Of course, this is still Rocky fucking IV. So there are good things to be found. Drago for instance, is a character to watch more closely. Stallone’s new version does not feature a cartoon cyborg from Russia, but rather an incredible athletic human, one who for example taunts his opponents more in the ring this time around (via new footage)… this is stuff to love, cherish even. There is added humiliation for Apollo’s death, considering Drago’s new in-ring behavior. But… I sort of wish it was part of a two hour movie. A fan edit would be amazing… but wasn’t that sort of Stallone’s job here in the first place?
Being inferior to perfection isn’t much of a criticism, this is still highly recommended. But the old cut is still boss. 10/10 against 8/10.