I suppose completists might scoff at the exclusion of Rocky V and Rocky Balboa from this 4K set. But from a certain perspective, it sort of makes sense. While those films might have their share of admirers, only the first four had a widespread - and lingering - impact on popular culture (for better or worse).
Watching them back-to-back provides an interesting look at how the franchise devolved from character-driven sports drama to flashy, MTV-inspired eye candy. Of course, the original Rocky remains the series’ crown jewel, an engaging character study wrapped inside an old fashioned, feel-good underdog story. Not only did the film turn its creator (Sylvester Stallone) into an instant household name, he never topped it.
Though slightly contrived, Rocky II is a solid sequel, which was something of a surprise back in the day, since it had an untried director (Stallone, flexing his clout) and essentially repeats the formula of the first film. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don't fix it, and these down-to-Earth characters are still the driving force behind the narrative.
Rocky III displays an increasing emphasis on style over substance. Aside from a poignant farewell to one of the franchise’s most endearing characters, there isn’t much subtlety or depth, but it’s certainly a lot of audience rousing fun. In this writer’s opinion, Rocky IV represents the nadir of the entire franchise, a good vs. evil conflict that’s not-so-much a movie as a sensory experience. At this point, Rocky is more of a symbol than a flesh & blood everyman, while his nemesis, Drago, is essentially a video game character.
|"What have I told you about name calling?"|
From a video standpoint, the overall quality is pretty good. Admittedly, the only film I’ve seen in the Blu-ray format is Rocky and the 4K transfer looks noticeably better. Since the other films feature equally impressive pictures, I’m assuming those are an improvement, too. The same consistency can’t be said about the audio, Rocky II, in particular. To be perfectly blunt, that film sounds terrible. Elsewhere, most of the bonus features (on a separate Blu-ray disc) are carried over from previous releases, though it does include a new documentary about re-editing Rocky IV, which is pretty interesting.
Probably released to coincide with the release of Creed III, Rocky: The Knockout Collection isn't a complete knockout, since it pulls a few punches in terms of content and quality. The four included films do look good in 4K, but some fans will obviously see it as incomplete and there are actually fewer bonus features than previous boxed sets.
“KEEP PUNCHING” - This is an hour-long documentary where Sylvester Stallone (apparently during COVID) discusses and shows the process of re-editing Rocky IV. It’s very enjoyable and Sly is quite candid about what worked and didn’t work in the original film.
FEATURETTES - “3 Rounds with Lou Duva” (boxing trainer); “Steadicam: Then and Now ” (with Garrett Brown, who invented it); “Make Up! The Art and Form” (featuring make-up artist Michael Westmore); “Staccato: The Composer’s Notebook” (featuring Bill Conti); “The Ring of Truth” (featuring set designer James Spencer); “A Tribute for Burgess Meredith”; “Stallone Meets Rocky” (through the miracle of ‘90s technology, creator & character meet each other).
3 ROCKY AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By director John G. Avildsen, producers Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff, cinematographer Garrett Brown (who didn’t work on Rocky, but invented the Steadiman that was used), actors Talia Shire, Burt Young & Carl Weathers; 2) By trainer Lou Duva & sports writer Bert Sugar; 3) By Sylvester Stallone.
TRAILERS FOR ALL FILMS
DIGITAL COPIES OF ALL FILMS