Sly. Sylvester Stallone in Sly. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

‘Sly’ Is a Refreshingly Honest Look Into the Life and Work of Sylvester Stallone

4/5 Rocky statues.

Sly is a movie that feels very personal not only to Sylvester Stallone but to anyone who has watched one of his films.

Recommended Videos

As someone who grew up in a household that appreciated the work of the Italian Stallion, so much of Sly’s work became ingrained into my every day life. The Rocky movies were just something I instantly knew. His voice was something I recognized almost as easily as I could my own family. Maybe it’s a stereotype, an Italian family obsessed with Stallone movies, but it was just what it was like as a kid in my home.

My brothers loved him and I loved him, but I recognized that there was this level of disrespect for his movies in Hollywood. Watching Sly, it’s clear that many did not understand or appreciate the amount of work and effort that Stallone tried to put into the movies he wanted to make.

Saying that Stallone was ahead of the curve seems wrong, but he clearly was. At one point during Sly, he’s talking about Rocky, and 77-year-old Stallone is yelling at his younger self that he should call Rocky a love story. His younger self doesn’t do it, but he recognizes that the movie he created is just that: a love story.

Sly was born out of Stallone wanting a change, moving from the west coast back to New York and unpacking aspects of his life. What makes the movie so compelling is a mix of this “tough guy” we’ve come to love being overwhelmingly vulnerable with the audience and telling us everything from his past that helps him craft characters that mean the world to fans. He is our Rocky, our Rambo, and he understands that.

Hearing from Stallone himself about what movies mean to him

Sly. Sylvester Stallone in Sly. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

For a man who has led countless franchises, brought back the greats of action movies for things like The Expendables, and opened up his heart to return to Rocky for movies like Creed, Stallone really shows us who he is in Sly. So much of the film is about his family and why a lot of what made Rocky’s relationship to Mickey so important was Stallone’s own struggles with his father. We get to see Stallone’s brother, Frank Stallone, talking about growing up with parents who would rather fight than deal with their boys.

Seeing this side of Stallone, hearing him talk about his own family and how it shaped him as a father and an actor, really shows you a different side to this tough action star you think you know. The most fascinating part, for me, comes from Stallone’s approach to film.

He talks heavily in Sly about his obsession with film and how he’d watch movies and take notes to learn from them—how when he finished Rocky, he tried to push envelopes. He talks about how hard a farce is, or just his conversation about the different styles of storytelling in general really shows how well versed Stallone is in movies and story and characters—which is why when he talks about helping to make Adrian in Rocky, it shows just how good he is at what he does.

Crafting Adrian

Sly. (L to R) Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in Sly. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Part of the movie that really showed me the kind of creative that Stallone is came from Talia Shire’s commentary on working with Stallone to create Adrian in the Rocky movies. You probably remember Stallone yelling “Adrian” when Rocky is looking for his love after a fight in the ring, but Adrian as a character has always been someone who held her own. A man who fights for a living, he couldn’t do it without Adrian at his side. She’s his rock and holds his world down, and Stallone made it clear that Adrian wouldn’t exist without Shire.

But Shire used her talking heads to highlight that Adrian came from Stallone’s work and his script, that he wrote a female character who was dynamic and not just the love interest in a boxing movie, that he managed, back in the ’70s, to craft a female character that wasn’t all about just one thing, with layers and worth outside of just her relationship with Rocky. It is such an interesting back and forth and one that really shows not only how much Shire respects Stallone’s work but how Stallone works as a screenwriter.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever seen that side of him, but Sly really opened my eyes to Stallone and made me care for this man, who has been in my family for my entire life, in a completely different way. If you’re a fan of Stallone or even someone who just knows him by name, Sly will change the way you view Stallone, and his approach to film, in a surprising way and is a brilliant watch.

(featured image: Netflix)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.