But, at the age of 69 and reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in Creed, Stallone has somehow produced a stunning, Oscar-worthy performance.
Don’t believe it? Just ask the American National Board of Review.
In its 2015 Awards announced on Wednesday – which are considered a reliable prequel to the Oscars – the Board gave Stallone the Best Supporting Actor Award for Creed.
The gong shocked many around the world, but was no surprise to anyone who’d been to see the Rocky series spin-off movie, which was released last week in Australia to rave reviews.
Directed and written by Ryan Coogler, the film is the first of the Rocky empire that Stallone hasn’t had a significant role in creating.
Coogler, 29, is known best for his only other feature-length film Fruitvale Station, whose star was also breakout American star Michael B Jordan.
In Creed, Jordan plays the roll of Adonis “Donnie” Creed, the son of Balboa’s nemesis and eventual friend Apollo Creed from the first four films.
Adonis spent his early years in juvenile prison because of (you guessed it) a penchant for fighting, but he is taken in and raised by Apollo’s ex-wife Mary Anne.
Apollo, who was killed in the ring by massive Russian Ivan Drago, fathered Adonis in an extramarital relationship.
Adonis boxes in off-Broadway type events during his spare time, working a day job in a high-level business position.
But that does not fulfil him, so Adonis quits his job on a whim and moves to Philadelphia from Los Angeles to be a pro fighter.
Sly’s Oscar-worthy effort
Sly, as he is affectionately known, has kind of become a walking parody of himself and his roles in recent years.
Meandering through some pretty awful films in the knowledge that he probably couldn’t beat characters like Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, it’s been admittedly tough for Stallone to shake their iconic traits.
Notwithstanding his powerfully heartfelt acting, nostalgia is the main reason why his reprisal of Balboa is just so damn good in Creed.
Balboa is Stallone. Stallone is Balboa.
When he first appears in the film after about 20 minutes, shutting his restaurant ‘Adrian’s’ for the night, there is a sense of overwhelming familiarity and warmth that’s hard to ignore.
Many laughed out loud, some just smiled but almost everyone turned to the person next to them to point out Balboa and share a grin, just in case they’d missed his appearance.
Every single Rocky cliché is rolled out in Creed, and rather than being cheesy, it feels extremely satisfying.
Even the montages are incredible, the highlight being one which ends with both Balboa and Adonis hitting a speed bag.
During the film, Balboa is approached by Adonis to train him, a job he is reluctant to accept. It’s this struggle with fully delving back into his past that Stallone portrays so wonderfully.
As the cherry on top, Coogler has crafted every fight scene expertly, from Adonis’ first bust-up in juvenile prison to the final showdown against an English champion at Goodison Park in Liverpool.
There’s no shaky camera or confusing perspective. When the punches hit they hurt the audience along with the fighters.
Each time Adonis is knocked down either in life or in the ring (and there are plenty), the audience and the boxer look to the corner, for the guidance of Balboa.
And every single time the older champ is there, exactly as we remembered him.