Creed is one of the best movies in the Rocky series, certainly the best since Rocky II, with a pairing of respect to the past films and a new style to a pretty stale genre. The last four Rocky films were more like “Rambo in the Ring” than the humble underdog story that it began with in 1976, and Creed is worthy of comparisons to the original. It has a top notch script from the Fruitvale Station director and co-writer Aaron Covington, with performances that bring it all together.
Adonis is in a foster home, having never met his father, the late great Apollo Creed. In an opening tracking shot, we zoom down the hall to a room where young Adonis is displaying that he is born with his father’s fighting talents, even though he is ashamed of that famous name: Creed. Apollo’s wife, Mary Anne Creed (played with tender care by Phylicia Rashad) enters the picture to take him into her home in L.A. where he can grow to become more than just a troubled kid of poor circumstances. He grows older, works his way to a promotion in a financial firm, but that fighter’s spirit still calls him to the boxing ring and back to where his father's legacy began: Philadelphia. Que the boxing montages!
When we last saw Sylvester Stallone put the gloves back on, in the appropriately titled, Rocky Balboa, I was afraid that Sly was going to seriously hurt himself. But, it was a step in the right direction for these movies. This time around, Rocky will be in for a battle for his life with cancer, and instead of putting him back in the ring, he plays the seasoned veteran. Adonis must convince Rocky to train him for a chance to fight the champion 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). It is a perfect combination of Coogler's writing and Stallone's performance that make this a knockout. I can write with extreme confidence; Sylvester Stallone is going to receive an Oscar nomination for how good he is.
Creed staggers from the few plot jabs that feel recycled from boxing movies of past, but rises above with a gentle romance between Adonis and his musically talented neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson). It's a charming love story between two people passionate for each other, without compromising the passion for their craft. With the support of those around him, Adonis will need to find the strength inside and battle the anger his father left him with. This story may sound familiar, but it wins because of Coogler, who uses constant tracking shots to follow our hero, superb fight choreography, and a script which never lets our characters struggles escape from their own internal strife.
Above all, Creed goes the distance. It is a pound for pound crowd pleaser, as Michael B. Jordan continues his climb to leading man stardom, while Stallone proves when given the right material, he can be a champion actor. Creed will make you stand up to cheer and leave you wishing for one more round.
3 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: MICHAEL B. JORDAN; SYLVESTER STALLONE; TESSA THOMPSON; PHYLICIA RASHAD
DIRECTED BY: RYAN COOGLER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
At the end of Creed, Director Ryan Coogler films an image that showcases the true courage and strength of a person in life, more than any boxing match could prove. It also happens to be an image far removed from the iconic images that we always have of the movie Rocky. It's a simple moment between Rocky (Stallone) and his new young mentee, Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), helping an aging and sick Italian Stallion walk up those famous stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's a heartfelt, and humbling scene, which pays respect to the figure that Rocky is, while ushering in a new era with Creed. Above all of those things, Coogler has made one of the best films of 2015, and brought the love we all have for the Rocky films, back to the big screen.