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Film / Rocky V

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"I'll get it all back. We just gotta stick together, hey?"
George Washington Duke: In the ring! In the ring! Tommy Gunn only fights in the ring!
Rocky: My ring's outside.

The one where Rocky goes all Street Fighter in the end.

Rocky V is a 1990 American sports drama film written by and starring Sylvester Stallone; the fifth film in the Rocky series.

Rocky has fallen on hard times due to combination of suffering from brain damage after his bout with Drago in the previous film and having his fortune stolen by a crooked accountant. He is forced to move back to his old neighborhood, where he starts running the late Mickey's gym. He becomes a trainer to a young boxer named Tommy Gunn. This doesn't sit well with his son and their relationship starts to deteriorate.

Though this was presumed to be the end of the series, Sylvester Stallone made a sixth film, Rocky Balboa, which was released in 2006.

Rocky V contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Tommy's father use to beat him and his mother until he grew up and left his home. This is where all of his aggression and rage comes from as he pictures his opponents as his father to unleash all of his wrath. His first KO is heavily implied to have in fact been him giving his father a taste of his own medicine.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • A double whammy one for Tommy Morrison. His manager's name is George Washington Duke, whose name not only references Tommy's boxing name Tommy "The Duke" Morrison, it references his (supposed) uncle John Wayne whose real name is Marion Morrison and was nicknamed "The Duke".
    • Tommy Gunn hails from Oklahoma, and Tommy Morrison, who portrayed Gunn, was born in Arkansas and grew up in eastern Oklahoma.
  • Always Someone Better: At first Tommy is delighted at being Rocky's pupil and the two get along well. But he becomes frustrated when the media starts constantly comparing him to Rocky, who ends up getting more attention for Tommy's success than Tommy himself. Tommy's resentment of Rocky and his own desperation for respect makes him easy prey for Duke's hands.
  • Angrish: During the final fight between Rocky and Tommy, the already loud and boisterous George Washington Duke descends into this, shouting barely intelligible rants at Tommy and actually roaring at one point.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Tommy Gunn has betrayed Rocky's trust, left him in the gutter despite Rocky's genuinely good intentions for him, has demanded a fight live on television, punched his Uncle Paulie, and very nearly beaten his father to death, but Rocky's son wants Rocky to take Tommy down because he took his room. Priorities, kid!
  • Ascended Fanboy: Tommy has been a big fan of Rocky when he was younger. He took a trip to Philadelphia, with risks included, just so he could ask Rocky if he can be trained. He sure is gleeful when he accepts.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Tommy Gunn's boxing style, mimicking Rocky's.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Duke spends the entirety of the film trying to convince Rocky to fight again, first with Union Cane and later with Tommy, promising that Rocky's comeback would make millions for all parties involved. Rocky ends up fighting Tommy in an unsanctioned street brawl, preventing Duke from making any profit from it.
  • The Berserker: Tommy's first time sparring he literally beats the crap out of his sparring partner and his fighting style is extremly aggressive he also goes Unstoppable Rage during his fights. Rocky even compares his fighting style to a street fighter.
  • Boxing Lesson: Rocky's son learns how to box in order to deal with the school bully (though, ironically, not from Rocky himself).
  • Career-Ending Injury: Rocky's brain damage keeps him from getting back in the ring.
  • The Chessmaster: Duke has schemes on top of schemes, and there's always a fall back option when one of those schemes doesn't work out. Until his attempts to get Rocky and Tommy so angry at each other that they'll do anything to fight each other winds up in them getting into a street fight rather than a boxing match.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: In the other films (the Creed films included), the main antagonists are the rival boxers that Rocky (and later Adonis Creed) is pitted against. In Rocky V, George Washington Duke is a scheming fight promoter who tries everything he can to get Rocky back into the ring, and Rocky never physically fights him. Duke is also completely devoid of the redeeming or honourable qualities that Rocky's other opponents have, and his unscrupulous methods to get what he wants make him the closest thing the franchise has to an outright villain.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Of the fight promoter variety. George Washington Duke is a greedy boxing promoter, and is notably the only villain in the entire Rocky series that lacks any redeeming or sympathetic qualities.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Zigzagged with the street fight against Rocky and Tommy. Round One Rocky quickly knocks down Tommy. Round Two Tommy beats Rocky senseless. Only in Round Three do they brawl evenly.
  • Cutting Corners: Tommy becomes frustrated with Rocky's insistence that he work his way up to becoming a contender for world champion, and eventually leaves him for Duke when the latter promises a quicker route to winning the title. Tommy does win the championship, but becomes a laughing stock for taking the easy route and getting the title handed to him, which is exactly what Rocky wanted to avoid for Tommy.
  • Darker and Edgier: This was an attempt to recapture the grittier feel of the first film after the apogee of over-the-top excess that was Rocky IV, with less appealing results.
  • Dented Iron: Rocky's strategy as a boxer frequently involved him taking intense headshots and shrugging them off. After years of doing this, especially against the might of Ivan Drago, Rocky learns in this film that he's developed serious brain damage.
  • Desperate Plea for Home: The story picks up minutes after Rocky's improbable victory in the fourth film... and we see him badly hurt in the locker room after the fight, his body trembling uncontrollably due to the beating that he took. In increasingly panicked tones, he tells his wife that he can't do anything to stop the trembling and shaking, and when she suggests seeing a doctor, he repeats over and over how he just wants to go home.
  • Determinator: A villainous example. Duke tries everything he can think of to get Rocky back into the ring. He exploits Rocky's bankruptcy by promising him a large paycheck, heavily downplays the blatant danger of Rocky's brain damage, and insults both Rocky and Adrian when they still refuse. Duke eventually becomes Tommy's manager in an attempt to ride off his connection to Rocky, and ultimately tries to pit the two against each other when the press don't take Tommy seriously.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Duke threatens to sue Rocky if the latter lays a finger on him, likely gambling that Rocky won't want to assault Duke in front of dozens of witnesses. Considering that Rocky's penniless, and his home and gym are technically owned by Paulie and Rocky Jr. respectively, however, Rocky doesn't have anything that Duke could actually sue him for, resulting in Rocky wasting no time in punching Duke's lights out.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Tommy Gunn's reason for challenging Rocky at the end of the movie largely stems from this. He's upset about first only getting attention as the student of the famous champion Rocky, and then later for being derided for betraying Rocky and only being a "paper champion". Add on Tommy's Daddy Issues and Duke encouraging his anger at substitute father figure Rocky, and you have a time bomb waiting to go off.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Rocky's making ends meet at Mickey's old gym and Adrian is back to working at a pet store.
  • Flat Character: The current title holder, Union Cane, has far less screentime or personality than any of Rocky's opponents from the previous films. Cane swiftly disappears from the film after Tommy wins the title from him.
  • Freudian Excuse: Tommy definitely has Daddy issues, as he elaborates early on. He may have projected some of them onto Rocky by the end of the movie.
    "My dad was the first guy I punched out. Every time I go into the ring, I see him again."
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Tommy goes from a poor kid with daddy issues alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city to World Heavyweight Champion to a crazy aggressive punk willing to attack his former father figure, (and anybody that tries to help said father figure) in public.
  • Fur and Loathing: The only furs seen in the film are worn by GW Duke, the sleazy fight promoter, and Tommy's unnamed girlfriend, who is heavily implied to be a Gold Digger.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Mentioned; despite being a trained boxer, Rocky was also a former mob-enforcer and knew how to act as a street fighter. Duke even berates Tommy for agreeing to take Rocky on in a street fight.
    Balboa's a street fighter, you're a prizefighter!
  • Happy Ending Override: Rocky is basically forced back to the starting point from the first movie due to a crooked accountant stealing all his money, and him vacating his world heavyweight title in Rocky IV.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • When trying to recruit Rocky to come out of retirement and fight current champ Union Cane, George Washington Duke (a Don King Captain Ersatz) mentions that he wants to set the fight in Tokyo. In real life, Mike Tyson's first defeat at the hands of Buster Douglas came in a bout promoted by Don King and took place in the Tokyo Dome a mere 10 months before the film opened.
    • This might be as well a smart reference to Muhammad Ali's fight against pro wrestler Antonio Inoki at the Tokyo Dome. Just like Inoki, Rocky also beats a world heavyweight champion by using non-boxing techniques (including a few literal pro wrestling moves) at the end of the movie.
  • Idiot Ball: The film reveals that before leaving with Rocky for Russia in Rocky IV, Paulie was convinced to sign Rocky's power of attorney over to his accountant, which allowed the latter to embezzle and squander Rocky's money while they were gone. While it's bad enough that Paulie did this without consulting Rocky and Adrian first, or even telling them that he'd done it after the fact, Rocky and Adrian should have known better than to give Paulie of all people the ability to handle the family's finances in the first place.
  • Immediate Sequel: The film begins minutes after Rocky IV, with Rocky suffering the effects of Drago's blows. Though do note that while muddled, the story eventually works its way up to Christmas of 1990; it wouldn't be so noticeable if not for Rocky's son aging about five to ten years between films, despite them being ostensibly days apart.
  • It's Personal: After declining Tommy's challenges several times, Tommy crosses the line when he attacks Rocky's brother-in-law Paulie, which finally prompts Rocky to take on Tommy in a street fight.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Rocky's crooked accountant (unseen in the movie) squandered all his fortune on bad business deals, disappeared, and left him broke. It's mentioned that eight criminal acts were filed against him, but it is not seen if these had any effect.
    • Duke's ultimate punishment for turning Tommy against Rocky and subsequently ruining Tommy's career is simply getting punched by Rocky. Although he may have also lost Tommy's trust and respect, though this isn't shown, and Rocky and Tommy having an unsanctioned street fight has ruined Duke's chance of making money off a boxing match between the two.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Duke's comeuppance gives him two cases of this.
    • He spends the entirety of the film trying to convince Rocky to get back in the ring, clearly caring much more about the money he would make from Rocky's comeback than the serious danger this would pose to Rocky's health. Rocky does end up fighting Tommy Gunn after Duke manipulates the latter, but does so in an unsanctioned street fight that Duke can't promote or make any money from.
    • After spending the whole film dismissing the health risks faced by boxers, Duke is given a much needed taste of what fighters go through, when Rocky uppercuts him so hard that he's launched into the air and lands on the hood of a car.
  • Lonely at the Top: This is the ultimate fate of Tommy Gunn. He's made it to the top, became world heavyweight champion, and got all the money he could have asked for, including a hot girl. Unfortunately for him, nobody really respects the guy, especially after he chose to dump and forget about Rocky Balboa (the man who trained him into the talented boxer he was), was criticized for not having a real challenge since his opponent got the title without a fight since Rocky lost it due to fighting an unsanctioned match against Drago, and he practically sold his soul to GW Duke, who was only using him to hopefully profit off of a match between him and Balboa, which Gunn himself destroyed any hope of that with a punch at Rocky's friend, Paulie. After the fight, he was disowned by GW Duke (who warned him that he's finished if he lost) is seen getting arrested after a humiliating defeat, and will likely lose it all over again.
  • Made of Iron: Paulie takes a blow to the head from the Heavyweight Champion of the World and shrugs it off like it was nothing. Though he does lose a tooth from it.
  • Manipulative Bastard: G.W. Duke, who encourages Tommy Gunn to step out of Rocky's shadow for a more lucrative career, and then urges Tommy to take on Rocky himself when it is learned that Union Cane never defeated Rocky Balboa.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Tommy casting Rocky aside in favor of sleazy promoter George Washington Duke gets him fame, the heavyweight title, and presumably money, (although considering that the man Duke is an analogue of is absolutely notorious for cheating and ripping off his fighters, that last one probably shouldn't be automatically assumed) but Tommy's fame is short lived, because he betrayed Rocky. The press and fans alike turn on him telling him that he'll never be the champ that Rocky ever was, and getting arrested after losing to an aging Rocky in a street fight probably means that Tommy won't profit from his actions nearly as much as he expected to, if at all.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Before the film's events, Paulie was tricked into signing power of attorney over to their accountant, who squandered Rocky's money on poorly thought out real estate deals.
    • Rocky nearly tore his family apart thanks to his obsession with training and managing Tommy Gunn.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: George Washington Duke wanted Tommy Gunn to get Rocky out of retirement and into a fight so he can profit off Rocky's name. To do this he first seduced Tommy away from Rocky then stroked and fueled Tommy's resentments and anger issues towards Rocky until Tommy would do anything to fight Rocky. Tommy got so mad that he got into a street fight with Rocky, where Rocky had the advantage and Duke couldn't profit from it. Oh, and Tommy assaulted other people along the way too, leading to him getting arrested. So much for that plan, Duke.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: George Washington Duke is a blatant parody of boxing promoter Don King. Throughout the film, he occasionally says King's famous Catchphrase, "Only In America".
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Unlike the franchise's other adversaries, the main antagonist in Rocky V is George Washington Duke, a sleazy and manipulative promoter who tries to get Rocky to fight again. Rocky's actual opponent in the film, Tommy Gunn, only fights him on Duke's behalf, while Duke himself never physically fights anyone, and it only takes a single punch for Rocky to deal with him.
  • Numbered Sequels: the last of the franchise to be numbered until Creed II, 28 years later.
  • Oh, Crap!: George Washington Duke pulls this towards the end:
    Duke: Touch me and I'll sue.
    Rocky smirks, then punches the lights out of Duke.
    Rocky: Sue me for what?
  • Old Master: Rocky, now Older and Wiser himself, attempts to be this to Tommy Gunn, but it doesn't go nearly as well through little fault of Rocky's. He gave his best effort, but the sport, and particularly the corruption at its top levels, had passed him by since he stepped out of the ring. On top of that Gunn didn't have the sense to realize that Rocky, unlike George Washington Duke, sincerely had his best interests in mind.
  • Only in It for the Money: Duke doesn't care if one match with Rocky could possibly disable him, or even kill him. What matters to him is that he profits from the match, and he'll do anything to make that happen. Sometimes, he's so open about his greed and the pursuit of money that he sounds like a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • Paper Tiger: Invoked and lampshaded. Union Crane is initially set up to be a serious contender, but he never fights Rocky for the title and is only named champion by default when Rocky retires. Tommy Gunn swiftly defeats Cane in the first round of their fight, and Tommy is mocked in a press conference afterwards for having the fight too easy. It's implied that Duke, who manages Cane and later Tommy, used his influence and pulled strings to get them both spots as contenders ahead of more deserving fighters, as his real life counterpart, Don King, would often do.
    Reporter: Everybody knows that Cane was just a paper champion!
  • Passing the Torch: Rocky attempts to do this by training Tommy Gunn, even giving him the same shorts that Rocky himself was given by Apollo. Though Tommy becomes disillusioned and is manipulated by Duke into cutting ties with Rocky, with this tension eventually resulting in their climactic street brawl.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Rocky's inexperience as a trainer causes his relationship with Tommy to drift so far that Tommy ends up siding with a more experienced fight promoter in Duke to help get him a championship opportunity.
  • Punny Name: Tommy Gunn's name is lampshaded by Paulie. This is taken even further with Tommy's boxing career, as he earns the moniker of "The Machine Gunn".
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Tommy starts the film pleading with Rocky to have Rocky train and teach him, but he eventually sells out and throws Rocky aside, not even mentioning Rocky in his speech after he wins the title.
  • Revised Ending: The script originally ended with Rocky dying after the final fight. An alternate climax—not the originally-envisioned one—can be seen here
  • Revisiting the Roots: The film was an attempt at returning to the tone of the first two movies rather than that of the third and fourth installments.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Real life: Mike Tyson, a young delinquent from a broken home, shows boxing talent and is taken in by legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, who eventually goes so far to adopt Tyson. Tyson begins cutting a swath through professional boxing, gaining notice because of how quickly and brutally he knocks out his competition, but D'Amato dies before Tyson captures the heavyweight title. After D'Amato's death, sleazy and unprincipled promoter Don King gets Tyson to break with the management team D'Amato left behind to look after Tyson by convincing Tyson that he'd make more money with King and that Tyson's management team was stealing from him. (They weren't, they were investing for his retirement.) This begins leading Tyson down a road to ruin.
    • Rocky V: Tommy Gunn, a young delinquent from a broken home, seeks out legendary retired boxer Rocky Balboa, and eventually gets Rocky to be his trainer. Eventually, Tommy is taken in like a member of the family. Tommy soon gains media attention by cutting a swath through the heavyweight ranks with quick knockouts, but he also gains the attention of sleazy and unprincipled boxing promoter George Washington Duke. Tommy, frustrated that Rocky insists on progressing Tommy's career at a slow and steady pace rather than going for the title shot, is seduced away by Duke, who promises him a title shot and more money than Rocky could get him. This sets Tommy up to go down the wrong path.
    • Just compare these speeches from Cus D'Amato, Mike Tyson's trainer, and adoptive father, (link) and Rocky's flashback of Mickey from Rocky V. (Link)
  • The Scrappy: In-universe, the press and the crowds do not like Tommy Gunn, especially after he leaves Rocky for GW Duke. The whole neighborhood cheers for Rocky when he defeats Tommy in their climactic street fight.
  • Sequel Reset: All the wealth made by Rocky as a world famous heavyweight champion in the past sequels has been lost due to a crooked accountant, costing Rocky his mansion and forcing him to move back to his old neighbourhood from the first movie.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Rocky Jr. (Robert) was nine in Rocky IV when Rocky went to Russia to fight Drago. Despite this film picking up right after 'Rocky IV'', Rocky Jr. is now in early adolescene when he first appears here. Child actor Rocky Krakoff was originally meant to play Rocky Jr. in early scenes and Sage would play him in the later ones (set in 1990), but when Krakoff proved unavailable, it was decided just to flat use Sage for the whole movie. While not especially convincing, Sage looks far more youthful and fresh-faced at the beginning of the movie than he does in later parts where he's older and harder.
  • The Starscream: Tommy Gunn, who is talked into a more lucrative career at the urging of George Washington Duke, who offers him a more lucrative career if Tommy makes G.W. Duke his manager, and gets furious when people say that he will never be half the champion that Rocky was.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Tommy's natural approach is to simply brute force his way through fights, though he gets a bit more skilled after Rocky starts training and managing him. Further demonstrated in the street fight, while it is lampshaded that Rocky has the clear upper hand in terms of experience, Tommy's brutality still makes it a pretty two-way blood bath.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The first time we see Tommy fight, he is shown as overly aggressive and give a sparring partner a nasty beating. Thanks to Rocky, he's managed to control it until the street fight scene where the press, GW Duke's speech to him, and Paulie calling him off all lead to him wanting to draw Rocky's blood.
  • Villain Has a Point: Although Duke is a sleazy Jerkass who's Only in It for the Money, he rightfully tries to stop Tommy from fighting Rocky outside the ring, noting Rocky's advantage in experience as a street brawler and the embarrassment that Tommy would endure if he lost note . His concerns are proven right when Tommy does lose.
  • Villainous BSoD: Duke's one humanizing moment in the whole thing is when the aged Rocky makes a comeback against his champ in the street, and while everyone else is cheering, he reacts with a stunned, "God-damn... only in America." For once, he sounds like he means it.
  • Villainous Respect: Though his public praising of Rocky's achievements is insincere showboating, Duke still begrudgingly admits to Tommy in private that Rocky is a more legitimate champion, noting that Rocky "fought wars in the ring" compared to the easy opponents that Tommy has now.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Rocky rants in frustration about Tommy's betrayal, Adrian finally calls Rocky out for his continuous attempts at reliving his career through Tommy, and how this has alienated his actual family.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: During his street fight with Tommy, Rocky lands a picture perfect drop toehold and a pair of German suplex-like takedowns.