Greatest Movie Series
Rocky II (1979)
Rocky (1976) | Rocky II (1979) | Rocky III (1982) | Rocky IV (1985)
Rocky V (1990) | Rocky Balboa (2006)
|Rocky II (1979)
d. Sylvester Stallone, 119 minutes
Film Plot Summary
The film dissolved, under the credits, to an ambulance on its way to a Philadelphia hospital. Once he emerged from the emergency vehicle and was being wheeled through the hospital lobby, accompanied by Adrian, her brother Paulie (Burt Young) and trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith), Rocky was surrounded and questioned by WCAU-TV Channel 10 news reporters. He could only reply when asked about his surprising showing, and if he thought he had won: "I'm at a loss for words." He was also asked: "Do you think you have brain damage?" and he quipped: "I don't see any." When Apollo Creed was wheeled in, the press reporters left Rocky and flocked around the champion, who wanted to speak to the "Stallion." He was furious for Rocky's stellar and lucky performance, and realized his win was not a clear victory: "What you did was a miracle. You're the luckiest man on the face of the earth...Nobody goes the distance with me." He was ready to fight again and delivered a challenge to knock Rocky out again, in a second-shot rematch: "I can beat that chump. I'll fight him anyplace, anytime." Although Rocky was advised that a rematch "could be worth millions," he replied: "I'm officially retired, now." Rocky was wheeled away as Apollo kept yelling at him: "Come back here. Don't run out on me."
Before Rocky's eye surgery, he asked: "Can you fix my nose?" but the doctor replied: "It's the eye that concerns me." Later, while recovering in his hospital room, Paulie and Rocky reviewed the fight together: "You had him in the 10th, and in the 15th, he was gone." And then Paulie asked for a favor - about getting Rocky's job as debt collector working for Rocky's ex-boss Tom Gazzo (Joe Spinell). Rocky agreed to talk to Gazzo as soon as he finished healing. Although Nurse Flynn informed Paulie that visiting hours had ended and he had to leave, she also asked the new celebrity for an autograph for her child Charlie - it was Rocky's first autograph. Some time later that night, Rocky visited Apollo in his hospital room - and asked only one question: "Did you give me your best?" to which Apollo answered honestly without anyone around to impress: "Yeah." Satisfied, Rocky returned to his room.
After recuperating, Rocky and Adrian left the hospital, accompanied by an agent (Leonard Gaines) who promised Rocky that he would make $300,000 that fiscal year, and was pressing for Rocky to sign a standard deal contract to make endorsement commercials ("sledgehammers, whatever, batteries....balls and baseballs"): "You gotta strike now while the iron's hot." When the agent suggested that the memory of the fight and his instant celebrity status would fade, Rocky promised to sign, but said he had to first go somewhere - "I just gotta do some things." At the Philadelphia Zoo in front of the outdoor tiger exhibit, Rocky proposed to his introverted and shy sweetheart Adrian: "What do you think you're doing for, like, the next 40 or 50 years?...I was wonderin', uh, if you wouldn't mind marryin' me very much?" She replied positively: "Yes, I'd like to marry you" and they kissed each other. He vowed: "I'll be a good guy, I promise. I ain't gonna do nothin' wrong. I ain't gonna leave no hair in the sink or nothin' like that." Euphoric, Rocky promised "Mr. Tiger" in the exhibit that he would send him an invitation. The next scene was their marriage in a church, where Father Carmine (Paul Micale) performed the ceremony for the couple in Italian before only a few guests. Afterwards, Mickey wished the couple well and returned to his gym to check out some prospective fighters. Rocky's ex-boss Gazzo pulled him aside and asked if he'd like to invest his fight winnings, 37 grand, in condominiums. Rocky replied quizzically: "Condominiums?...I never use 'em."
As Rocky and Adrian returned home from the church that evening, Rocky carried his new bride in his arms. They passed the neighborhood street singers (from the first film), referred to by Rocky as "the neighborhood's jukebox," who sang the new couple a special song in commemoration of their marriage. As he carried her over the threshold into his apartment (#1818), Rocky ordered his dog Butkus off his bed, then removed Adrian's headpiece-veil, confessing: "You're the best thing that ever come into my crazy life," and carried her over to his bed. She asked hopefully: "You think it'll always be like this?..I hope you...never get tired of me." He promised: "You ain't never gettin' rid of me." She answered: "I hope nothing changes." He told her: "I ain't changin'. I sure ain't never changin' nothin' about you." They expressed their love for each other and tenderly kissed.
The next day, Rocky - to enjoy the good life - began spending his new wealth at a car dealership where he purchased a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am (although it was chronologically the year 1976). She said they didn't need a car, but he said it was necessary for the upcoming commercials he would be doing. The spending spree continued at a Bonwit Teller store where he bought himself a black leather jacket with a tiger on the back, a mink fur coat for Adrian, and three expensive watches (for the two of them and for Paulie). At a pet store, he also purchased a studded collar for Butkus and a smaller version for his own wrist, declaring: "Now that's what I call class." The newlywed couple also looked at real estate in a better neighborhood (Adrian asked sensible questions about the details, i.e., the type of plumbing, the amount of taxes, etc.) while Rocky just commented: "I know a pretty good deal when I see one" - and he hastily acquired a mortgage and put a down payment on a two-story place.
At Apollo's mansion, the champ was sharing with his wife Mary Anne (Sylvia Meals) the contents of some hate mail that he had received regarding the fight's split-decision: "You didn't beat nobody and anybody who knows boxing knows the fight was fixed," and "You call yourself the champ. You're a fake. The fight was a fake. Go kill yourself," and "How much did you get to carry that bum for 15 rounds? You're a disgrace to your people." Creed could not ignore the criticisms over his fight with Rocky, regarded by many as 'fixed,' and he remained frustrated and angry over the public's perceptions that he should have lost - he was anxious to regain the fans' respect and prove his superiority again.
Rocky awaited news from Adrian outside a gynecologist's office and was told that she was pregnant (Rocky beamed: "I knew you had it in you"); as they walked home, they expressed their hopes about the child in their future - Rocky boasted: "If this kid has your good looks and your good brains and my good left hook, he's really gonna be somethin'". But then he thought, "What if it's a girl?" Adrian answered: "She'll be everything I'm not. She won't have to be shy. We could give her singing and dancing lessons." She added: "And if it's a boy, I'd like him to be just like the father." Rocky joked: "Don't you think one dumbbell in the family is enough?" Rocky insisted that the child wouldn't get tattoos, hang around streetcorners, or dress like a wise guy: "He's gonna be a good somebody like you." She responded: "Like you." They kept repeating "like you" to each other.
Rocky began to earn money in a lucrative deal with the Smart Deal toy company who wanted to make a "Rocky doll" - "You can kick it, you can beat it, it does everything...It takes a terrific beating." He also appeared as an endorsing spokesperson in a Beast After-Shave TV commercial, costumed first as a brutish caveman with a club. But the filming turned out to be a disaster when Rocky couldn't properly pronounce the words on a cue card ("Smeel mainly" instead of "Smell manly"), and his sub-par reading skills caused his acting to be robotic and unconvincing. After many takes, failed scenes, and four wasted hours, the exasperated director (John Pleshette) changed the set to a boxing ring, but Rocky - as "The Contender" - continued to flub his lines while reading the "dummy cards." Sensing criticism, Rocky explained that he had "a relaxed brain, but I ain't punchy...It's just the way I talk." He personally clashed with the director: "This whole thing here ain't right...You're a rude guy. I'm trying very hard and you're being rude" and then agreed to quit, pleasing the frustrated director, who considered Rocky un-professional and untrained: "This is a complete bust. The whole afternoon...You cost us thousands of dollars because you can't read." Later that night in bed next to Adrian, Rocky practiced reading to Adrian - telling her: "Bein' a good reader's gonna help me get a good office job." She tried to encourage him with compliments: "You read nice." With Adrian's pregnancy, a house mortgage, new car payments and other increasing debts, Rocky sought to find employment.
During a job interview at one company, the uneducated and inexperienced job seeker Rocky told them he had only completed through the 9th grade, and in response to a question about having a criminal record, he answered: "Nothin' worth braggin' about." When asked about manual labor, Rocky stated his preference for a 9-5 office job: "It's just I'd like to see if I could make a living sitting down like you're doing over there." He was bluntly told office positions would be impossible due to job competition, and that he was more suited to return to fighting, yet Rocky dryly replied: "Were you ever punched in the face 500 times a night? It stings after a while, you know." Other employers told Rocky the same thing - white-collar jobs would be difficult to come by for a person without a high-school diploma and qualifications. It was often suggested that he find a "good-paying menial labor job." Rocky ended up working where Paulie had worked at the meat-packing plant (where he had trained for his bout with Creed), hauling huge sides of beef. [Paulie was now working for Gazzo in Rocky's old collection job.] But after only a few days of tiring, backbreaking work, Rocky's apologetic employer Frank was forced to lay him off due to his lack of seniority and a cutback in non-union jobs. Low on funds, Rocky drove to the waterfront docks to speak to his brother-in-law Paulie, and offer to sell him his Trans-Am sports-car, rationalizing with the excuse: "I have a hard time making these right turns with my bad eye. I keep hitting trashcans and things like that." Rocky refused Paulie's offer of a handout. Paulie suggested: "Why don't you be smart and fight again?" to which Rocky answered: "I don't need to fight no more."
With the car payments taken over by Paulie, Rocky returned home to Adrian to tell her the news of his job lay-off due to "economics." He then told her: "I was thinking about fighting." Adrian was against any more boxing for him: "What about your eye? The doctor said you shouldn't fight anymore...You could go blind." When he claimed he was a "fighter," she also added: "You could be whatever you wanna be. You don't have to fight anymore...Rocky, you gave me your word you wouldn't fight anymore. I mean, if we need money, I could get a job." She offered to get her old job back for a while (and only part-time) at the pet shop, and although Rocky initially rejected the idea ("I'm the one who's supposed to support"), he reluctantly agreed because they needed the money ("Maybe you're right. You know what's best"). When she left to prepare dinner, he partially took out his frustrations and anger on the punching bag in his basement where he was working out.
Later that night, Rocky and Butkus walked to Mickey's training gym, where Rocky was greeted by his trainer as the returning "prodigal son." Rocky asked for his gym locker back, and discussed how he was contemplating fighting again, although Mickey replicated what Adrian had warned about a return to boxing - the risk of permanent blindness: "You wanna go blind?" He asserted: "Your fighting career is over." Rocky kept pushing to return to his boxing 'career': "Maybe we can do better this time." To show and test the limits of Rocky's eye, Mickey slowly moved his finger from Rocky's side to in front of his face, warning that with his failing right eye: "Creed would have caved in the whole side of your face. Now, forget it, kid. You got the heart, but you ain't got the tools no more." Rocky was deeply saddened and suggested helping out at the gym as a janitor and clean-up man: "If I can't fight no more, maybe I can help out around here." Mickey knew that Rocky's dignity would suffer from the menial job of carrying towels and buckets around, but Rocky confessed he would accept the job: "I gotta be around it."
In Apollo Creed's office, the champ mentioned that since he was promoting his own matches, he was pressuring for a rematch against Rocky, the Italian Stallion, to prove for himself that he could decisively win, and regain respect: "There's a lot of people out there accusing me of having the fight fixed, accusing me of being a fake, and insulting my kids at school." His trainer Tony "Duke" Evers (Tony Burton) claimed Rocky was "damn lucky" and now was "all finished." He proposed going after a new contender or "new meat. Forget this bum." Creed asked: "Do you think I beat him the last time?" but "Duke" could only reply: "You got the decision." Frustrated, Creed replied: "Man, I won! But I didn't beat him. What are you afraid of, Tony?" His trainer replied: "He's all wrong for us, baby. I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before, and the man kept coming after you. Now, we don't need that kind of man in our life. Let it go. You're the champ." However, Creed was adamant about getting Rocky to agree to another fight in the ring - he wanted his promoters to pressure and taunt Rocky with a public campaign ("humiliation tactic") to bring Rocky out, to jar his pride, and to get the people around him talking - "Whatever gets him in the ring."
When Rocky went to the gym for work, he was shown a full-page newspaper ad with the heading: "APOLLO CREED vs. THE ITALIAN CHICKEN," with a cartoonish picture of Creed grabbing and choking a Rocky-headed chicken. Rocky joked it off, and a few of the boxers briefly mocked Rocky. When Gazzo came to the gym and offered him back his old dockside collections job, Rocky declined: "I can't do that stuff no more." But Rocky was reminded of his past glory by a Bicentennial Poster still hanging on the gym wall. On the way home, he met up with Adrian at the pet shop where she was working, and suggested that they both needed a few laughs in their lives. However, as they left the store, somebody derisively called out to him: "You really sweep good, man. Italian Chicken." And then at home, he saw world champion Apollo Creed in his palatial gym on the TV news, insulting him and calling him a "timid fellow" and bum ("The bum's hiding, the bum's running!"), and claiming that Rocky wouldn't last five minutes: "He doesn't want to face me. He's scared...I'm ready to have a rematch to prove that this lucky club fighter...does not have the skill to last five minutes in the ring with a superior athlete like me." He ended the interview with a challenge: "I want the whole world to know that I'm ready, willing, and able to meet you anywhere, anyplace, anytime." Afterwards in their upstairs bedroom, Rocky asked Adrian to allow him to fulfill his destiny: "I'm supposed to be a fighter." After giving up boxing, Rocky felt he was "becoming a nobody again." He told her: "I don't want just to get by the hard way...I want you to have good things. I want the kid to have good things." She was against his idea: "You don't have to prove anything....I don't want you to do it," but he believed boxing was his life: "It's all I know." He pleaded further: "I never asked you to stop being a woman, you know. Please, I'm asking you, please, don't ask me to stop being a man." Mickey's knock on their front door interrupted their discussion. He had seen the recent telecast and immediately proposed that Rocky accept the rematch: "I think we oughta knock his block off." Rocky agreed: "Absolutely," despite Adrian's objections.
During Apollo Creed's press conference with Rocky in attendance, a determined and relentless Creed announced that the rematch would be held at the Philadelphia Spectrum, on Thanksgiving 1976, vowing: "I want the whole world to see me destroy this man after two short rounds." He also denied that fighting a southpaw had thrown him off in the first match: "I took the fight too lightly and this man was just plain lucky." Creed wanted to impress the audience that he would be serious this time - he would be "lightning fast and hard to catch. No playin', no jivin', just business." When Rocky was asked a few questions, he non-chalantly and naively responded in his laid-back style, calling Creed "pretty mad." He told everyone his substantial pay for the fight would help pay the rent, and then he'd buy a couple of hats and a motorcycle, a couple quarts of perfume for Adrian, some Muppet toys, a statue for the church, and a sno-cone machine for Paulie. As Creed left, he told Rocky: "Come November, you're mine."
During training and while viewing films of the previous fight, Mickey realized that Rocky's left-handed fighting style was "too easy to figure out...They oughta outlaw southpaws." Mickey suggested a new strategy of fighting right-handed, to throw off Creed's timing: "To pull this miracle off, you gotta change everything. You gotta learn to be a right-handed fighter. Now this'll confuse Apollo, and it will protect that bad eye." He warned that without that advantage, Rocky would suffer a major defeat: "He will beat you uglier than you are now." Mickey also wanted to increase Rocky's speed: "We need greasy, fast speed!" by having him chase a live chicken around a neighborhood lot, a training method from his own boxing days, promising: "You catch this thing, you can catch greased lightning." Rocky was reluctant about the method: "I feel like a Kentucky fried idiot." He also was feeling guilty about returning to the ring, having second thoughts because Adrian was crying and didn't approve of his fighting. In comparison to Apollo's vigorous and intensive workouts, a half-hearted Rocky wasn't as focused or intense, and his training suffered. Mickey called Rocky a "dead-ass" for his slow reflexes, and he asked: "You sick, kid?" He berated him for his lack of dedication and resolve, and for training like a bum: "You're training like a ninth-rate pug who oughta be pumping gas in Jersey someplace." In the gym, Paulie even noted: "I'm worried about you. I've been watching...Your head ain't screwed on right...My sister got you so guilty, you're running all over the place...It ain't all right....It's not OK." In the locker room, Mickey told Rocky that the fight wasn't in him anymore, and that he was just wasting his time: "Go back to the docks where you belong. You go back to being a two-bit nothin'! But don't you ever come back here again. Because I'm too old to waste my time trying to train a no-good loser like you. You bum!"
Paulie went to the pet shop and confrontationally fought with Adrian (who was strenuously working in the store) over her treatment of Rocky - accusing her of "messing up his brain real bad." He hurtfully added: "He's gonna get hurt because of you." She became emotional as she defended herself: "If he goes blind, you walk away. I can't. I love him. You don't." The stress caused her to collapse and sink to the floor - she entered into premature labor. Rocky was summoned to the pet shop and Adrian was rushed to the hospital. She gave birth to a baby son, one-month premature (and placed in an incubator) although it was a healthy child. However, there were complications (hemorrhaging due to the strain of overwork), and the sudden loss of blood caused Adrian to fall into a coma. In her room, Rocky tearfully told Adrian that he would keep a vigil by her bedside: "Don't worry about nothing. You just sleep as long as you want, okay? I'm gonna be here when you wake up." He told Paulie that he wouldn't see his newborn son until Adrian recovered and awakened.
For days, he was faithfully by her bedside until the end of visiting hours forced him to retreat to the hospital chapel to pray and kneel. Mickey joined Rocky at the chapel, urging him to return to his training regimen: "Well, Rocky, you got another shot. It's a second shot at the, I don't know, the biggest title in the world. And you're gonna be swapping punches with the most dangerous fighter in the world. And just in case, you know, your brain ain't workin' so good, all this happens pretty soon and you ain't ready. You're nowhere near in any shape. So I say, you know, for God's sake, why don't you stand up and fight this guy hard like you done before? That was beautiful. But don't lay down in front of him like this! Like, I don't know, like some kind of mongrel or something. 'Cause he's gonna kick your face in pieces, you know that? That's right. This guy just don't wanna win, you know. He wants to bury you, he wants to humiliate you. He wants to prove to the whole world that you was nothing but some kind of a freak the first time out. And he said you're a one-time lucky bum. Well, now, I don't, I don't wanna get mad, in a biblical place like this, but I think you're a hell of a lot more than that, kid. A hell of a lot! No, wait a minute. If you wanna blow it, if you wanna blow this thing, dammit, I'm gonna blow it with you. If you want to stay here, I'll stay with you. I'll stay with you. Yeah. I'll stay and pray. What I got to lose?"
Time passed with Rocky in Adrian's room at her bedside, or in the hospital's chapel praying for her recovery (with Mickey often only a few feet away). He would caress her hair, hold her hand, encourage her, read to her outloud from a pulp western (asking: "Can you hear me, Adrian?"), and write simple rhyming poems to her. And then suddenly, one evening, Adrian's fingers twitched and her eyes fluttered and opened, and Rocky smiled and caressed her head: "I knew you'd come back. Thank you, God." The next day after emerging from the coma, their baby was placed in Adrian's arms, and Rocky congratulated her: "You really done good." Adrian noticed Rocky's tiredness, but he downplayed her concern, and then asked whether he should be "mixing with Creed" or whether they could find another way to make a living. She answered with direct encouragement, whispering: "There's one thing I want you to do for me...Win!" Mickey exclaimed: "What are we waiting for?"
With Adrian's endorsement and blessing, Rocky began to retrain in earnest, passionately engaged in a series of grueling workout sessions to be fully prepared for his rematch bout: one-armed pushups at dawn, sledgehammering metal in an auto scrapyard, one-armed pullups, endless situps, rope-skipping, weight-training, chicken-catching, and boxing practice, to increase his strength and speed. He only paused briefly to care for his son, before a reprise of the rousing sequence, seen as a montage accompanied by Bill Conti's music "Gonna Fly Now," as he triumphantly ran on trainyard tracks and through the streets of Philadelphia, encouraged by onlookers. He eventually ended up climbing the steps of the city's art museum - this time joined by an ever-increasing crowd of cheering pre-teen children urging him on. He raised his arms in a victory pose at the completiion of his brisk run. In the next contrasting scene, Apollo Creed was in his mansion contemplating his upcoming match - Creed crumpled up a newspaper photo and clipping of Rocky. At the same time, Rocky was wide awake in bed next to Adrian, reflecting about the next day's match.
The night of the climactic fight, titled SuperFight II for the heavyweight championship of the world, Rocky left for the fight from his home, surrounded and greeted by supportive Philadelphians. But under doctor's orders, Adrian had to stay behind, with Paulie for company, to watch the match on television together. Rocky drove off in his reacquired sports car, first stopping at the church for a quick blessing delivered from an open window by Father Carmine, "so that if I get beat up tonight, you know, it won't be too bad."
Fight announcers at the Philadelphia Spectrum noted that 31 year-old, 202 lb. "street brawler" and "Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa was a 5-1 underdog, while the seriously-determined champion, 220 lb. "Master of Disaster" Apollo Creed was "in the best shape of his illustrious career." They also noted: "There is a definite desire for Apollo to draw first blood to end it quickly. This could prove his claim that the last fight was a fluke." In terms of their records, Creed was undefeated while was the first man ever to knock Creed down. When they met in the center of the ring, before a standing-room-only crowd of spectators, Creed told Rocky: "You're going down, man."
During round one of the intense "fight of the century," Creed's fast-start strategy was to finish off Rocky quickly by taking command early. Although southpaw Rocky fought right-handed, it had no effect on Creed's non-stop jabs, and Rocky was knocked down (to the count of six). The fight continued, and so far was undoubtedly Creed's with a huge lead on the judge's scorecards. In his corner, Rocky told Mickey that his nose was broken again. In round two, Apollo's dominance continued (he bragged: "He can't hurt me") and Rocky was felled a second time (to the count of eight), but the challenger was angered and brutally pounded away at Apollo's face and body in the corner. Both fighters came back - and between rounds two and three, Rocky promised: "I ain't goin' down no more."
The fight continued, going from round to round more swiftly in a series of montages, with Apollo mostly dominating and "piling up the points", while Rocky held his own by hitting Creed in the mid-section. By the 8th round (won by Balboa according to the announcers) and for several more rounds, the fight was shown in slow-motion with closeups and enhanced sound effects. But Rocky was taking a terrible beating, "twice as bad" as 10 months previously. By the 13th round, both battered and bruised fighters were struggling to stay on their feet. And then just before the 15th and final round, Apollo's trainer emphasized that he could easily retain the title on points by having Creed just stay away from Rocky: "You've got him beat on points, you understand?...Don't go for the knockout." But Apollo wanted to prove that he could knock out the challenger, and disregarded his trainer's advice by telling Rocky: "You're goin' down." Mickey suggested that Rocky now switch back to being a southpaw, and although Rocky initially refused, he did switch back during the round.
Toward the end of the conclusive round, both men assaulted each other standing toe-to-toe in the center of the ring, where Rocky hit Creed with blistering left hooks - and both went down to the canvas, totally exhausted and nearly knocked out. The first fighter to struggle to his feet during the final ten-count (in slow-motion) would be the winner. Although Creed nearly made it first, he collapsed, and Rocky was able to get to his feet at the count of 9 - and was declared the winner ("the new heavyweight champion of the world") in a stunning upset. At the microphone for a post-match speech, Rocky thanked Apollo for the hard-fought battle, Mickey for training him, and he thanked God. Rocky then stated: "Except for my kid being born, this is the greatest night in the history of my life. I just wanna say one thing to my wife, who's home: 'Yo, Adrian! I did it!'" Tearfully, she replied twice to the television: "I love you."
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
This was the first sequel in the original five-film series. The main members of the original cast all reprised their roles.
The film was the first of three Rocky films that Stallone would not only write and star in, but also direct.
With a production budget (N/A), and box-office gross receipts of $85 million (domestic) and $200 million (worldwide).
With no Academy Awards nominations. In fact, Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and Rocky Balboa (2006) were all devoid of nominations.
The fight in this film was a rematch between Apollo Creed and Rocky, taking place on Thanksgiving 1976, 10 months after their initial title bout. However, the film was a full three years after the debut film in 1976.
Mary Anne Creed
Tony "Duke" Evers
Series-Introduction - Index to All Films | Series-Box Office