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Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers
Writing Credits:
Sylvester Stallone

Rocky Balboa proudly holds the world heavyweight boxing championship, but a new challenger has stepped forward: Drago, a six-foot-four, 261-pound fighter who has the backing of the Soviet Union.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Opening Weekend:
$19,991,537 on 1325 screens.
Domestic Gross:

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Theatrical)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Ultimate Director’s Cut)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
English Descriptive Audio
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Castillian Dolby 5.1
German Dolby 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min. (Theatrical)
94 min. (Ultimate Director’s Cut)
Price: $59.99
Release Date: 2/28/23

Available as Part of “Rocky Knockout Collection” 4-Movie Set

• Two Versions of the Film


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer

Rocky IV [4K UHD] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 13, 2023)

Back when Rocky IV hit movie screens around Thanksgiving 1985, Sylvester Stallone was probably the most popular actor in the world. He’d provided a huge hit with Rambo: First Blood Part II earlier in the year and was flying high. The jingoistic attitude of that Vietnam-related movie jibed well with the mindlessly patriotic tone prevalent during the period, so the time was ripe for Stallone to exploit that attitude for all it was worth.

As such, we finally get to watch Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) fight a white man. No, this doesn’t imply that the prior three Rocky movies took a racist approach to their lead’s foes.

The state of affairs in boxing would have made it unrealistic for him to take on a white heavyweight, as Black fighters dominated the ranks for many years.

Still, it felt good to see the movie eliminate that Black vs. white subtext, even though I don’t think any negative racial implications manifested. Ironically, though Rocky IV wipes out any anti-Black possibilities found in the older movies, it substitutes a much more negative attitude as the film totally buys into the era’s anti-Soviet hysteria.

As the flick begins, we’re introduced to Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a Russian super-boxer who pops onto the American scene as a terrifying representative of his oppressive culture. His life seems totally handled and manipulated by General Koloff (Michael Pataki) and his Drago’s wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen).

Bored with retirement, former Rocky opponent - and ex-champ - Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to stage an exhibition match with Drago to get himself back in front of the public eye and also make himself feel young again. However, things go tragically awry as Drago’s power overcomes old Apollo and Creed goes down for the permanent camp.

It’s bad enough that this robotic Russkie made the US look bad - now it’s become personal for Rocky! As such, he agrees to face probable death and take on Drago in an unsanctioned fight that occurs in the Kremlin Killer’s homeland on the pathetically symbolic Christmas Day.

To be blunt, Rocky IV deliverss a very flawed movie. Actually, I hesitate to even refer to it as a movie, for this is more like a 91-minute compilation of music videos.

We’d get a few minutes of exposition and then bam! We’d move onto the next training montage accompanied by some crummy 1980s rock ditty.

The flick never even remotely attempts to offer any form of character development, as it stays with stereotypes and easy patterns. The Russians appear least well-drawn of the bunch.

Lundgren only says about seven words, and the other Soviets don’t get much better treatment. At least Lundgren presents a stunning presence in the role. He feels qintimidating and vicious as Drago, and his physical might makes the part work better than it should.

In Rocky III, Stallone’s ego really got the best of him, as he made the title character little more than a buffed-up robot. That attitude negatively affected the whole film, as I think it delivers the most soulless of the bunch.

While Rocky doesn’t become any better drawn in Rocky IV, at least Stallone seems willing to make him appear more warm and endearing. The Rocky seen in III bore absolutely no resemblance to the original character, while the man found in IV occasionally betrays some semblance of the old Stallion. It’s not much of a performance, but it represents a nice rebound from the prior flick.

As the supporting characters continue to die off - Burgess Meredith’s Mickey got the axe in III and we lose Creed here - more and more of the burden falls upon Talia Shire’s Adrian and Burt Young’s Paulie. Unfortunately, the script does nothing to support them, so they turn into nothing more than simple caricatures.

While she at least got to pop out a baby and fall into a coma during Rocky II, during the subsequent sequels Adrian gets allowed to do virtually nothing other than support her husband.

Paulie remains the film’s comic relief, though he shows none of the pathos found in the character during the first Rocky. That’s okay, since none of the crew display their old humanity.

Both Paulie and Adrian now exist in the Rocky universe just because they’re supposed to be there. They have nothing to add other than face recognition.

Surprisingly, one of the weakest aspects of IV relates to its climactic fight sequence. While this thing should feel like a war, it flits by so effortlessly that it comes across as a light soiree.

For all of its flaws, at least the ending fight in III seemed gritty and brutal. IV ends with a whimper.

Note the elevation in Stallone’s ego represented by his post-bout make-up. Although it feels clear he takes a much greater beating here than in the first film, compare his bruised and battered raw meat face from 1976 with his modest damage in 1985. It’s a telling indication of how unwilling the star was to portray himself in an unattractive manner.

While it becomes the thinnest of the series, I don’t think Rocky IV offers the worst of the bunch, as the extreme lack of heart evident in the third film really bothered me. IV doesn’t manage much more warmth, but it doesn’t really try to do so, and perversely, that makes it more successful.

Rocky IV offers little more than a jingoistic, anti-Soviet screed that pummels us into submission with a slew of music video-style workout montages. The symbolism is ridiculously obvious - such as when one sequence alternates shots of Drago’s high-tech regimen with Rocky’s wood-chopping and snow-running - and the xenophobic attitude seems extreme even for that Cold War era.

Nonetheless, Rocky IV seems mindlessly enjoyable for what it does. I didn’t mind the brief experience – at least it flies by at a quick 92 minutes.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Rocky IV appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though never a great presentation, the transfer was more than acceptable.

Sharpness was generally good. Some scenes came across as a bit soft, partially related to the heavy usage of smoke effects during some scenes.

Nonetheless, general definition remained positive. When allowed to demonstrate strong delineation, the image shined.

No issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge haloes occurred. Heavy grain implied no issues with noise reduction, and outside of a few small specks, print flaws failed to appear.

Colors seemed good. The film offered some nice patriotic hues with frequent use of solid reds and blues, and these appeared clear and acceptably vivid, though the murkiness often evident affected them. HDR gave the tones a boost in effectiveness.

Black levels were positive, as dark tones seemed fairly deep and rich. Shadow detail usually came across as appropriately heavy and concise, but again, those oppressive smoke effects brought on some problems on a few occasions.

HDR brought greater emphasis on whites and contrast. Rocky IV provided a positive picture that nudged into “B” territory.

Note that a glitch occurred at the 10:17 mark, so for nine seconds, the 1.85:1 ratio shifted to 1.78:1. While sloppy, I don’t think this became a significant distraction.

I also felt the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack seemed more than adequate. The track remained fairly anchored to the forward channels, where I heard good usage of the spectrum. Audio appeared to be fairly well localized across the three speakers, and sounds blended together neatly.

The soundfield presented enough ambient audio on the sides to make it fairly involving. Surround usage seemed limited to general crowd noise and musical reinforcement, but that felt fine given the movie’s era.

Audio quality also felt dated but adequate. Dialogue seemed a little flat but seemed fairly clear and natural, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility.

The cheesy synthesizer score provided decent clarity, though it focused mostly on mid-range material, so don’t expect a lot of power. That went for the pop/rock songs we found as well.

Effects were a little more problematic, but I think most of those concerns came from poor foley work and weren’t related to replication issues. The various elements seemed thin but relatively clear for the most part. Despite some weak links, as a whole the soundtrack of Rocky IV was fairly good, and it seemed satisfactory for its age.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Audio seemed similar, and probably identical.

The 4K’s visuals boasted the usual improvements, as colors, delineation and blacks also worked better. The nature of the source meant the movie failed to impress, but the 4K turned into the stronger rendition of the film.

In addition to the movie’s theatrical version (1:31:30), we get Rocky vs. Drago: Ultimate Director’s Cut (1:33:52). Those running times imply that Sylvester Stallone simply added another 142 seconds of footage to the original film.

However, Stallone made much more substantial changes than that, as he added plenty of new material, dropped scenes, and altered others.

These variations became apparent from literally the start. Whereas the theatrical version offered a three-minute, 30-second recap of Rocky III, Drago used different shots and expanded the flashback o seven minutes.

From there the film leapt straight to Apollo’s home and his introduction to Drago. This meant we lost Paulie’s birthday party and the Rocky/Adrian early anniversary celebration.

Instead Drago allowed more from Adrian, as she expressed her concerns about future fights. We also got an alternate version of how Rocky and Apollo discussed potential bouts with Drago.

I’ll save additional alterations to leave surprises to new viewers. I went into some detail to demonstrate how much Drago differs from the theatrical version, as all those changes popped up merely in the movie’s initial 15 minutes.

So expect a lot more reworking during the remaining 79 minutes. Though not a radical redo of the original, Drago offers more than superficial changes.

Okay, I’ll mention one interesting change. In the theatrical version, Apollo’s trainer Duke repeatedly tells Rocky to throw in the towel, but this happens only once in Drago.

I think Stallone did so to make Rocky look less negligent – though he also adds dialogue to make Rocky seem more distraught about his role in Apollo’s death. The Apollo fight also gives Drago more to say after his victory, and in an unusual choice, he seems less heartless now.

The big question becomes whether or not Drago works better than the theatrical cut. I would argue it does, though I can’t claim Stallone makes it an actual good movie.

Drago does feel better focused on characters and story. The loss of the family scenes works because those come across as cheesy and superfluous, whereas much of the added footage helps drive the main narrative.

As implied a little earlier, this version also allows Drago to seem less like a robotic monster. I suspect some of this exists to connect the 1985 Drago to the kinder/gentler character in Creed II.

Whatever the reason, I like the more human Drago. The 1985 cut makes him seem like a complete cartoon, so these mild attempts to give him more dimensionality benefit the film.

Duke also gets an expansion here, as Drago allows more screen-time and development. Perhaps out of spite toward his ex-wife, though, Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla finds her appearances cut to the bone.

Also: RIP Paulie’s robotic assistant. That device finds itself totally removed from Drago.

If you love all the musical montages, though, rejoice! They appear to remain intact.

Which means Drago can only improve on the original in a limited manner. Those “music video” scenes become so tedious that they needed to be radically altered to make those parts of the film work better.

Still, I do prefer Drago to the theatrical Rocky IV by a modest margin. While it doesn’t fix the original edition’s problems, it removes enough of them to make it fare better.

Viewers should anticipate a very different looking image from Drago, mainly because this presentation came with lots of noise reduction techniques absent from the 1985 image. What grain I saw tended to look “frozen”.

General processing removed most grain, though, and that gave the movie a too-smooth and artificial vibe much of the time. Some shots looked fine but many others felt mushy and vague.

To my surprise, Drago offered many more print defects than did the 1985 version. I assumed this 2021 scan would clean up the source, but a few dozen or so specks manifested through the film.

Colors tended to seem pretty good, and note that the “Rocky driving and thinking about the past” montage made the flashback shots black and white. Blacks and contrast also worked well.

Nonetheless, I wasn’t happy with the way Drago used noise reduction. The original came with so much grain that its removal inevitably made the new version look wrong.

Note that Drago cropped the original 1.85:1 down to 2.39:1. Why? I guess because people now view 2.39:1 as more “cinematic” than we did in 1985.

This left shots as tighter than in the past. No extreme issues manifested due to the cropping, though.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track for Drago became a more aggressive mix, especially in terms of quality. The new version went much more bass-heavy, which felt like a blessing and a curse.

On the positive side, the 1985 film’s 5.1 could sound anemic. On the other, Drago went a little too low-end happy, and the overactive subwoofer could become a distraction.

Drago also emphasized various effects to a greater extreme. Punches became even more exaggerated than in the old mix.

Still, audio quality was generally fine, though dialogue occasionally sounded awkward. Some looped lines came with an odd echo and they didn’t match the film well.

As for soundscape, it expanded the original in a moderate manner. The surrounds received greater use and the track became a bit more involving.

Whereas I clearly prefer the 1985 image, I think it’s a wash between the two soundtracks. While the audio of Drago could seem too exaggerate and artificial, it also became more engaging and dynamic.

Other than the Drago cut, the 4K includes no extras.

Rocky IV offers the least substantial of the series, but that does not mean it becomes the worst of the bunch. Although it feels excessively thin and flashy, it provides some moments of general entertainment. The 4K UHD provided generally good picture and sound as well as an alternate cut of the film. This will never be a good movie, but the 4K presents it well, and I like the new edit of the film more than the original.

Note that at most retailers, this 4K UHD edition of Rocky IV comes only as part of the “Rocky Knockout Collection”. It also includes 4K discs for the first flick and the movie’s other two sequels.

However, Best Buy offers individual releases of all four movies as steelbooks, and these come with Blu-ray copies. In terms of pursestrings, the “Knockout Collection” becomes the most affordable way to get all four films, as it goes for $60 MSRP, whereas each Best Buy steelbook sets you back $30. If you only want one or two of the flicks, though, the steelbooks might satisfy.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of ROCKY IV

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main