The pantheon of access-documentaries is expanding with a portrayal of a strong person with a cuddly interior: Sly, which is currently available on Netflix and is about Sylvester Stallone; it might also be labelled The Emotional Journey of an Action Hero.
Notably, it comes just after another Netflix exclusive, Arnold, which ran three hours and three episodes less than the ninety-five minutes of this film.
Sly could be furious if these men were still rivals rather than backslapping friends. However, he appears to be past all of that foolishness in this movie, prepared to consider his life and the passing of time with the fervour of, perhaps, an unconquerable boxer or even a loose-cannon Vietnam veteran aiming his bazooka at a group of evildoers.
According to this document, the man wasn’t all that different from his well-known personas. To be honest, if his narrative doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable in the slightest, you must be built of stone.
SKIP IT OR STREAM IT, SLY?
The Core: Well, I’ll face it—”screw-loose” does not do John Rambo credit. A lot of discussion in Sly centres on how Stallone improvised a pivotal speech in First Blood, in which all of Rambo’s suffering is revealed.
It’s a heartbreaking sequence that demonstrates his enormous acting talent and transforms the movie into a sombre character study rather than just a violent, action-packed escape.
Naturally, Rambo would go on to destroy everything in his way in a string of graphic sequels that would never have happened if Sly hadn’t demanded that Rambo survive the First Blood conclusion rather than “dying in slow motion” as was initially intended. Rambo would have destroyed trees, tanks, and people with dark skin.
He is so honest and sincere that you can’t help but believe him when he says he didn’t want millions of struggling veterans to think there was no hope for their damaged spirits. Near the conclusion of Sly, he asserts, “I’m in the hope business.”
After that, Sly got the acting bug and returned to New York for a supporting part in The Lords of Flatbush. It was then that he made the acquaintance of Henry Winkler, with whom he had been pals before the Fonz and Rocky became well-known.
He produced screenplays nonstop, moved to Los Angeles, and attempted to market himself as the writer, director, and star of a film about a palooka boxer who falls in love with another misfit soul.
The film was modelled after On the Waterfront and Mean Streets. Studios once tried to bribe him not to star in it because no one could look beyond his attractive exterior and see the driven actor below who could very effectively translate the suffering of his background into a role. He was able to have Rocky manufactured at last, and the rest is history.
The specifics of Stallone’s career as a movie director and renowned actor, however, don’t interest him. Instead, he would like to discuss how “visiting the mountain isn’t all it’s up to be.”
As Sly delves into pivotal moments in films we sometimes dismiss as light entertainment, we hear testimonies from Frank Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Morris, Quentin Tarantino, Winkler, and more.
He discusses how he channelled his pain into parts of Rocky II, Rocky III, First Blood, Rocky IV, Rocky V, and Rocky Balboa, all of which reflect his development as a person, an actor, a star, and, yes, Sylvester Stallone as an artist. Really. a creator.
Before viewing this documentary, I was kind of convinced of that claim, but after watching it, I am sincerely convinced.
Documentary about Sly Sylvester Stallone on Netflix
Image: Provided by Netflix
Which Films Does It Make You Think of? It’s a somewhat superficial comparison because Arnold is a whole different animal.
Intimate profiles such as Pamela Anderson’s Pamela, A Love Story or Robert Downey Jr. and his father Doc Sr. share more similarities with Sly.
Arnold’s performance is worth seeing. I apologise, but Arnold is such a lively and boisterous interviewee that he sticks out among the generally sombre group of talking heads. (Note: Nobody else can make Quentin Tarantino appear sober; only Arnold can.)
Memorable Dialogue: Morris discusses the fundamental paradox in Rocky that gives the film its distinctive, beloved quality. “To give the impression that he won, the movie was rigged.”
Sylvester Stallone in the documentary Sly on Netflix.
Image: Provided by Netflix
For those of us who haven’t watched Sly’s reality series, The Family Stallone, go watch it if you want to see him interact with his wife and daughters, who aren’t really mentioned here (he largely stays away from talking about the death of his son Sage, who passed away at the age of 36 from coronary artery disease).
All of this seems pretty revealing. By no means is Sly a definitive biography; rather, it focuses more on revealing the cuddly underbelly of a man who has spent the previous 50 years building himself up like a crap brickhouse and is well-known for his monosyllabic action-movie personae.
A snapshot of an unexpectedly sensitive man reflecting on all the work that led to actual monuments being built in honour of his legacy (he even has a massive Rocky statue in his home), the document functions counter to the tough guy we might think he is.
Though it feels calculated, it’s undoubtedly honest. The movie is polished in the sense that it focuses mostly on Sly’s perspective, eschewing his conceit and ego in favour of embracing his fragility and regrets.
However, it succeeds because it turns out that knowing that even the best action movie heroes have all-too-human flaws is motivating.