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After reclaiming the boxing championship title, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) plans to retire and live with his wife, Adrian (Talia Shire). However, during an exhibition match, Rocky’s friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is mercilessly beaten to death by hulking Russian newcomer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).
Rocky vows payback against Drago and flies to Russia to train for a Christmas Day fight. Despite their different training methods, Rocky and Drago both wage a long and intense match.
Rocky vs Drago succeeds to the tiniest degree in making the film feels like some semblance of a character study, rather than a rushed 90 minutes full of repurposed footage and fighting montages set to workout music by Survivor, John Cafferty, Touch, and composer Vince DiCola.
The fighting sequences in the Rocky movies have always been a dream of what boxing might be like if it were more like a choreographed street brawl than a sport where defense is an option. Rocky’s strategy of waddling toward his opponent with his gloves down is like if Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy involved exhausting a rival by having him punch you repeatedly in the face.