My introduction to Rocky was Rocky III, the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan of the series. Unfortunately, it was followed up by two films that were not memorable. Rocky IV was a example of 80's Cold War fiction, pitting Rocky against a huge Russian ("I will break you"). I have completely forgotten the plot of Rocky V, except I thought Rocky had a heart problem. But forget about those two. It was Rocky and Rocky II that defined the soul of the boxer, his drive and his character. Add to those first two films Rocky Balboa.
You might think that you are going to see a "fight film." You would be wrong. In fact, there is only one fight in the whole film. But, this film is not about the fight, and it does not follow the typical formula. The formula where Rocky has a fight, loses the fight, training montage (powered by a Survivor soundtrack) and then the final fight, where, in the final seconds of the final round, Rocky wins. Rather, this movie is a heavy character piece, which was completely unexpected. And I think that is what I liked most about the film: I am more interested in Rocky as a man rather than Rocky as a boxing legend.
As a side note, Rocky owns a restaurant, and this reminded me of Ilio DiPaolo's restaurant in Buffalo. I've only been there once before Ilio died, but I had heard that Ilio, like Rocky, would visit with his guest, sharing stories of the ring.
Rocky Balboa: ***+
Theater Worthy and Approved.