#TIFF23: “SLY” REVIEW
By David Baldwin
Not that long ago, Sylvester Stallone was one of the biggest Hollywood movie stars on the planet. He was action movie royalty and the man who breathed life into Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, two of the most iconic characters in film history. Director Thom Zimny explores these elements in his documentary SLY, where he sets out to explore Stallone’s career from the beginning until now.
Zimny’s portrait of the legendary Action Star is enjoyable for the most part. He charts Stallone’s tumultuous home life with his abusive father, his struggles to get Rocky made with him as the lead, the immediate critical and financial evisceration he received after, and how he ended up carving out his own path as an Actor/Writer/Director; all the while speaking to Stallone in the present as movers pack up his memorabilia for a big move. Stallone is a refreshingly honest interview subject which makes the Film much less fluffy than it could have been.
And while I question why Quentin Tarantino is a talking head here, it was fun hearing Talia Shire, Frank Stallone Jr., John Herzfeld and Arnold Schwarzenegger all talk about their histories with Stallone.
Zimny’s Documentary is not without its faults. For one, Sly spends a long amount of time leading up to Rocky and the aftermath. Then it whips through the rest of the ’80s and practically sprints through the remaining years with very little time for reflection. I get the reason for the early focus and appreciated the self-deprecating comments about Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, but if this is supposed to be about his full career, then why not spread the love a bit better? And no, Barney Ross from The Expendables is nowhere near as iconic or comparable to Rocky or Rambo despite what the Film may suggest.
More egregious is how Zimny discusses Stallone’s son Sage who passed away in 2012. He is shown a handful of times and mentioned in passing, yet not treated with the same amount of emphasis as Stallone’s father. I am sure Zimny has his reasons for not including Sage more; it just comes at the cost of brushing away a pretty pivotal moment in Stallone’s saga. Much like everything else in the second half of Sly, there should have been way more time for reflection.
SLY screens at TIFF ’23:
Saturday, September 16 at 6:30 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre
Saturday, September 16 at 8:00 PM at Roy Thomson Hall
Sunday, September 17 at 7:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto