definitely the worst of the series. this one, like the first, is directed by avildsen (who also did karate kid) and suffers as a result. i can honestly say that i prefer stallone’s direction in rocky II to avildsen’s direction in the first rocky and that sentiment carries to this installment as well. this one was released five years after the previous film, the largest gap between any of the first five films, and that may have something to do with its lack of success. the transition from one rocky jr. to the next was desirable, but too inconsistent. that is, the actor who played rocky jr. in rocky IV definitely needed replacing, but the actor who replaced him (stallone’s actual son) didn’t look anything like the last one. in a related complaint, the two films take place within less than a week of each other, yet rocky, adrian and their son look different (because of aging and a new actor).
these inconsistencies aside, the film lacks in the music department again as well. this isn’t because of bill conti, though. rather, i think it’s because of avildsen’s own tastes. he inserts popular artists like snap, mc hammer and elton john (who sings the final song which is something about what it takes to be a man, i kid you not) and they really date the film. the film’s nemesis is also inferior. there are actually two villains in the film – the over-anxious promoter and tommy “the machine” gunn, a boxer who is trained by rocky, but turns on him because of the promoter. neither is as interesting or well-executed as the opponents in any of the other films. tommy gunn is interesting on paper because he reflects a fluid, amoral version of rocky, but isn’t well-cast or directed, and the promoter is just a cartoon character. the final fight sequence is much more reminiscent of the stupid brutality of 80s action films than of the art and character of the other rocky films.
the rocky jr. storyline seems misplaced in the series. again, i have to blame this on avildsen. with the right direction this storyline might have fleshed out the tommy gunn/rocky dynamic in a compelling way.