Of all the Rocky sequels, Rocky III – buoyed by Mr. T’s portrayal of the entertainingly nasty Clubber Lang – is probably the most effective of the bunch, though there’s certainly no denying that the film is almost entirely lacking in unexpected plot developments. As the film opens, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has clearly let success go to his head – as evidenced by his various endorsement deals and rampant spending (a palatial estate, cars, fur coats, etc) – and now boxes only safe opponents. But after a humiliating bout with Clubber, Rocky enlists the help of old foe Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and begins a grueling training regimen. Written and directed by Stallone, Rocky III admittedly features a far more melodramatic bent than any of its predecessors, particularly as Rocky is forced to re-examine his priorities (culminating with a long sequence in which loyal wife Adrian confronts him on the beach). That being said, there’s little doubt that Mr. T remains one of Rocky’s most fearsome adversaries – their final battle is as brutal and compelling as any in the series (if not more so) – and the air of slickness proffered by Stallone ultimately proves impossible to resist.
*** out of ****