Ian’s review published on Letterboxd:
”Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”
Once again Stallone just absolutely understands how much emotion and depth these these need in order for a satisfactory and engaging ending. There’s nothing here that really makes you think it’s going to get bigger and better. What was an interesting note in the original sequels was the idea that each opponent got harder and harder to defeat, but here with Rocky Balboa it isn’t so much as to prove yourself that you can beat some guy in a fight, but that inner spirit still needs to reach out and Stallone never pushes that idea too much and let’s it flow naturally.
I mean yes, of course there is an opponent in the end, but what makes this all so special is the attention to detail that Stallone brings behind the camera. While I think his performance here is probably his best of the series so far - maybe on par with the original - but watching this with how much focus and clarity he creates as writer & director brings all of it together. There’s this sense of both atmospheric weight that is holding Rocky down and while I think the privilege of being in front and behind helps, but watching the pure emotional ups and downs are worth it all.
I think this sometimes gets forgotten for only the famous quote alone. Yes, it is a pretty hard-hitting quote, but yano I think it hits and works so much better when you realize how much is fully behind it. Not only from all the sequels before this, but the current father-son relationship on display here giving such an authentic reaction here. The fight at the end of this works solely on the idea that it brings everything together and it’s shot well; but ultimately, I think the real showcase is the pure passion and sentiment that Sylvester Stallone was able to convey here. Rocky Balboa is the best since the original and honestly I don’t think it’s that close of a race.