Rocky III (1982)

Rocky III (1982)

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shore, Burt Young

Rocky Balboa's reign as the world heavyweight champion is brought to an end by the brash and brutal challenger Clubber Lang and must retrain and recover his confidence to stand up to Clubber in a rematch.

While the first two films in the series were joined at the hip, this one accounts for the time lapse and change in fortunes of both Stallone himself and the character of Rocky. You can already feel the 80s setting in with this one, which makes for a bit of a different tone. It's almost an inversion of the original, with Rocky developing into the gentrified champion while Clubber Lang is the dedicated underdog, though Clubber is sort of the dark Rocky and possibly a look at what Rocky might have been if he didn't have things like Adrian come into his life.

As for performances, I want to give particular note to both Mr. T as Clubber and Hulk Hogan as the heel wrestler Thunderlips, the first major movie role for both of them. It's quite different from the sort of roles you usually associate with either of them, but they both do the heel thing well. (I'm aware that Hogan's done his rounds as a heel, but I only knew about him at the height of his popularity as a face.) Both bring a lot of physical presence and intensity to the roles, but in the latter case, it's humorously subverted as in-universe kayfabe.

If you've been following the series thus far, you're bound to want to watch this one as well. It's not as much of a gritty underdog story as the first two (unless you consider Clubber to be the protagonist), but it's worth seeing all the same.

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