Well whaddaya know: I’ve changed my mind already.
Since watching Rocky Balboa last week with Clare I’ve decided that it deserves a place in my Top 10 Films of 2007. Yes, I saw it during the last week of January 2008, but it was released in 2007. My list. My rules. Don’t argue, Clare.
It’s either at number 9 or number 10. I haven’t quite decided yet. Tell you what: I’ll be decisive and make it Number 10. That knocks Beowulf off the list. Sorry, Beowulf. Empty your desk and hand your security pass in at reception. You know the drill.
Rocky Balboa resonated with me in all manner of ways. For one thing, well, you know… it was a fecking Rocky film, fer Chrissakes. Do I really need to elaborate on that? Alright, I will. As a kid I’d get so pumped up after watching a Rocky film that, next morning – without fail and without exception – I’d always go for a vigorous early-morning run in Birmingham’s Perry Barr Park. Now, I’ve never been much of a jogger – I’m just not the type – but after watching a Rocky film I would, betwixt dusk and High Noon, mutate into a hardcore fitness fanatic.
Maybe I should have watched those Rocky films more often.
Or maybe it’s just as well I didn’t. After all, I didn’t just imitate the Italian Stallion’s hardcore physical regime but copied his bizarre eating habits, too. These were the days before Edwina Currie and her salmonella scares: gulping down a pint glass full of raw eggs didn’t seem quite as breathtakingly stupid as it does now. It just seemed stupid.
Perry Barr Park was the ideal venue for these pre-pubescent, post-Rocky flick runs. As you entered the park from Aldridge Road there was a path lined with park benches, ideal for leaping over systematically a la the Rocky II training montage (which, of course, I did). At the other end of the park was a steep grassy slope that led to the bright yellow perimeter fence of Alexander Stadium. As I punched the air and whistled Bill Conti’s theme tune, I felt like Rocky running up those famous steps of Philadelphia’s National History Museum, except for the fact there weren’t any steps. And it was covered in grass.
But it wasn’t just these somewhat embarrassing memories that made Rocky Balboa chime with me. I’ve always loved stories about ageing heroes who come out of retirement to kick some serious arse. This isn’t just about me being a decrepit old fart, you understand. It’s always been the case. I’ve always loved movies like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Ride The High Country, Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Don Siegal’s John Wayne swansong The Shootist and, yes, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Despite becoming somewhat disillusioned with Frank Miller over the years, one of my favourite comics is still 1986s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. That, in case you don’t know, is a story about an ageing bat-themed vigilante who comes out of retirement to kick some serious arse.
These are all stories about old-timers who get one last shot at being a hero or finding redemption, and they’ve all resonated with me throughout my life. With Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone has crafted a worthy addition to this honourable genre. In fact, I’ve just decided to move it up to number 9 on my Top 10.
Just don’t expect me to jump over any park benches in the morning.