Rocky Balboa (12A) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The legend limps on. Sly Stallone, at 60, has brought back his most famous creation for one last go-round. Is he for real? Absolutely, because Rocky Balboa knows that "while the body changes, the heart only grows stronger" - and because Stallone knows that he needs a hit after years in the wilderness.

The surprise is that, for the first hour at least, the film is a quietly affecting portrait of an ex-fighter coping with retirement: there's a real melancholy in the way he entertains customers in his restaurant with favourite stories, tries to bond with his nearly estranged son, and visits the grave of his late wife.

It can't last, of course, and fantasy eventually takes over to put Rocky in the ring for an exhibition bout with current heavyweight champion, Mason "the line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver), a man half his age. A montage of running, weightlifting and punching carcasses of meat herald his comeback trail. And we have to pretend that the old guy wouldn't get murdered. "It's never over till it's over," says Rocky - or till the moneymen decide to throw in the towel.

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