Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Frank Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Winkler, John Herzfeld, Wesley Morris, and Quentin Tarantino
Director: Thom Zimny
Much like Netflix’s Arnold earlier this year, Sly plays it too safe. Its strength is in discussing everything that went into the Rocky franchise from the mouth of Sylvester Stallone himself, and it’s evident how much thought and care has been put into the iconic character. Beyond that, it’s a little unremarkable. It zooms past his non-franchise film career, and it never dives into his hardships with any depth. I understand that Stallone tries to maintain a level of optimism and was likely very hands-on with this project, but I don’t feel like I know the man any more than I did going in.
As a lifelong fan of Sylvester Stallone, it saddens me to say that Sly is predictably self-pandering. I wanted a deeper look at his life, not just his career, but the movie takes most of its runtime to talk about how Stallone created his famous franchises (a lot of the movie is just about Rocky). As a fan, that's fun, but it's not worth my time when I'm after a little bit more. Not that his personal life isn't touched on at all, but not nearly enough to be insightful. Is it an easy watch? Absolutely. Will I watch it again, though? Probably not.
Though perhaps a bit too long and too focused on Rocky, Sly remains an interesting and honest portrait of Sylvester Stallone. It’s less self-aggrandizing than Netflix’s Arnold, and I can genuinely say that I came away with more insight into the man. That said, I also was left just a little wanting. Obviously, with a 77-year-old subject that has had such a lengthy career, it’d be near impossible to cover everything, but there are aspects of his life that I wish it had touched on more, including certain film failures and his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, a great watch for fans of the icon.
Sly is a kind of one-on-one, but lightly assisted, documentary from and about the man himself, Sylvester Stallone. It can be easy for someone to look upon the past with rose-colored glasses and attribute too much to the meaning behind past accomplishments. In this case, I believe Stallone to be insightful and his attributions to be admirably objective, but you can tell that he is protective of his family, which leads us down a safer and narrower path that hinders the film’s potential. Nevertheless, Rocky fans and general Stallone enthusiasts alike shouldn’t hesitate to queue this one up.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.