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Sly

Updated: Nov 19, 2023


As a longtime Sylvester Stallone fan, the new Netflix documentary SLY left me wanting more, much more.

Let me be clear, I don't need any more of Stallone talking to the camera, that's well covered here. But I was dying for other voices to be heard and more coverage of the ill-fated films in his filmography.

("Staying Alive" anyone?)

More of a vanity piece than a true documentary, it's not without it's power.

Stallone believing in himself enough to insist that he starred in the original "Rocky" is legendary. They offered him nearly a half million dollars of 70's cash to sell the screenplay and go away.

He refused.

The rest is legend.

Rocky II and Rocky III ruled the box office in the late seventies. They were HUGE.

I've always felt like there were true gems among Stallone's lesser seen films as well.

1978's "F.I.S.T." is excellent, a full blown character drama and period piece that's loaded with drama. It's nicely delved into here.

1981's "NIghthawks" with he and Billy Dee Williams tracking an international terrorist across NYC is a blast of a thriller. It's overlooked.

The film is framed inside Stallone's massive Los Angeles mansion as he packs everything up and gets ready to move East. He sees it as an opportunity to revisit all the pieces of his life and save what's important.

He shares plenty about his physically and mentally abusive father, a figure that haunts him for decades, constantly in silent competition with his famous son. But we see nothing about his over-the-top Mother, who became a radio talk show regular for decades, spilling her own brand of vanity and ego for attention.

We see brief glimpses of his son Sage as Stallone discusses the failed "Rocky V" and a brief mention of the fact that Sage died in 2012, but no mention beyond a subtitle showing that he passed away. It's glossed over and there are no mentions of Stallone's increasingly famous daughters, save a few family photos.

The doc basically focuses on Stallone's franchises, Rocky and Rambo. The first five Rocky films are nicely covered, but only "First Blood" gets its due, with the incredibly successful sequels only superficially mentioned. The last film gets plenty of attention as a statement to Stallone's commitment to his characters, but it's the worst film in the series.

There are desperate attempts to claim he had three huge franchises, but "The Expendables" is so bad that I just cringed whenever it's brought up in the same breath as the TWO R's.

It would have been so much more fun and revealing to see behind the scenes clips or other actor interviews from then or now around Stallone's major hits.

At one point, Sly says "If I would have known I'd only make around 25 films, I would have made some better choices". GREAT! Let's expand on that!

Nope. Director Thom Zimny lets Stallone change the subject back to his abusive Dad and a polo match in the 90's. Meh.

Where is "Cliffhanger"? "Tango and Cash"? "Victory"?

ANY of the Creed films? I know Stallone is pissed off as he's lost creative control of the past few Creed films, but they've been superb and have featured some of Stallone's best acting. Don't they deserve mention?

No, lets get back to more shots of movers wrapping up trinkets and moving the Rocky statue.

His brother Frank Stallone gets plenty of screen time and offers up some of the film's best insights. His perspective on Sly's success and the impact it had on Frank's career is fascinating. I personally think he's luck he had his brother.

Anytime Schwarzenegger or Tarantino or Talia Shire were on camera, discussing Stallone's impact or style, SLY delivers. But giving him a platform to justify the horrible dialogue at the end of "First Blood" should not be this bio's purpose.

I was half expecting him to demand a Pulitzer Peace Prize for the "If we can change, then the whole world can change" speech at the end of Rocky IV.

Stallone deserves a better career retrospective than SLY, but this seems to have been made with his full involvement and control.

More "Over the Top" than "Rocky", SLY mumbles along to a C, leaving us all unenlightened and slightly punch drunk from paternal beatings.





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