Sylvester Stallone, gleaming with oil and wrapped in Old Glory, writes, directs and boxes his way back to another box- office bonanza in the crowd-pleasing, rabble- rousing, ruckus-raising "Rocky IV."
It's a different roman numeral, but the same formula -- laced with humor and bad dialogue, and a punchy pace that gets you drunk on your own adrenaline.
The big event pits Rocky Balboa against Russian champ Ivan Drago, a big blond steroid addict with the personality of Darth Vadar. World War III seems imminent at ringside, but Rocky goes a good way toward detente by Round 15.
In this "Rocky," the patriotic pugilist abandons a comfortable retirement after former- foe-turned-crony Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) persuades him to manage Creed's fateful comeback bout with Comrade Drago.
Dolph Lundgren, who looks a lot like his girlfriend Grace Jones (except that he is white and male), plays the Soviet supervillain. "My name is Drago," he says robotically. "I cannot be defeated." It's not really a speaking part. Neither is Stallone's, for that matter, but we weren't expecting a lot of chitchat.
Subtitles, which would sometimes help when Rocky speaks, do show up for the dialogue among the Russians at ringside -- where the usual bashing, bleeding and serious pummeling take place. Of course, the fight itself and Rocky's picturesque training time -- to the Rocky theme music -- are the movie's mainstays.
The Siberian Express, as Drago is dubbed by wags in the sports press, takes state- approved drugs, uses computers, and trains on Nautilus. Rocky, a natural, organic guy, eschews modern conveniences, preferring to pull stuck Soviet buggies out of snowdrifts and weightlift bags of boulders. He does situps in a loft, he jumps rope in front of a roaring fire. He practically works out in a manger.
The KGB spies on him at his Siberian training camp, where the agents are almost won over by Rocky running through icy brooks in his combat boots. But what a bunch of grouches, those Russians. Drago's PR guy sneers at a press conference: "How pathetically weak your society has become."
That kind of snide Soviet jive, along with a pivotal tragedy, is more than the Rock Man can stand. Sure, it's shamelessly manipulative posturing -- but then, this isn't really a movie. It's a comic book.
And naturally there's the traditional pokey dialogue between clinches. Here's Rocky, in a heart-to-heart with pal Apollo, who misses the fame: "We're changing. We're, like, turning into regular people." Like, no chance.
Sometime before his impossible climactic bout, Rocky also pauses to reflect: He recalls a series of scenes from the first three "Rocky" movies. A few more roman numerals and he won't have to shoot any new footage.
Burt Young and Talia Shire reprise their roles as Paulie and Adrian, with Stallone's real-life fiance Brigitte Nielsen as Drago's wife. Good supporting performances help the old story -- active, alive, energetic and totally preposterous, with lots of shots of Rocky's nipped-in waist above his tight drawers. A little Rambo, a little Jayne Mansfield.
ROCKY IV (PG) -- At area theaters.