Creed

Creed movie poster

Release: Wednesday, November 25, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Ryan Coogler; Aaron Covington

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Perhaps it’s the fact that Creed feels more akin to a warm family reunion than a cold cash grab that unnecessarily extends a beloved boxing franchise that has allowed it to curry favor with both critics and audiences alike. The end product certainly doesn’t stand on shaky legs, with early responses seeming to indicate this could be a Dark Horse for Best Picture next February.

Underdog story manifests as a reunion in more ways than one, throwing on-the-rise actor Michael B. Jordan back into Ryan Coogler’s ring for the second time following their collaboration on 2013’s emotional gut punch Fruitvale Station. Meanwhile, an aging Sly returns to Mighty Mick’s Gym for the first time since he abandoned his responsibility to maintain it; it also re-teams Jordan with his The Wire co-star Woody Harris, who plays Tony “Little Duke” Evers, one of the young boxer’s many assistant trainers. Needless to say, Creed benefits greatly from the coziness of familiarity.

This is the tale of the rise of Adonis Johnson, illegitimate son of the legendary Apollo Creed. He adopts his mother Mary Anne Johnson’s last name early in the film even after (or perhaps due to) learning that his father lost his life in the ring at the hands of Soviet brute Ivan Drago. Donnie’s introduced as a rather angry child with a knack for getting into fist fights.

We flash forward to the present where a muscular Jordan is preparing for a brawl in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican arena. He holds down a job at a securities firm in Los Angeles before up and quitting it to pursue boxing full-time, much to the dismay of Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). It’s a matter of time before Donnie tracks Rocky down at his Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.

“Train me,” he insists. “No,” Rocky replies.

Then of course Rocky starts training him, scribbling down on a sheet of paper a series of training exercises that Donnie captures on his cell phone for later use. But you know Rocky will be drawn back to the ring, only in a different but no less effective capacity. Coogler builds the relationships in such a way that even all of these potential eye-roll-inducing developments pay great dividends. This is a massively enjoyable film, reminiscent of the pure entertainment value of Ridley Scott’s most recent effort. It remains to be seen how much pull it’s ultimately going to have down the stretch when it finds itself squaring off against the likes of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming western thriller, critically acclaimed dramas such as Brooklyn and Spotlight or the various other stand-outs from earlier this year.

Its reverence for everything that has come before is both a blessing and a curse. It means newcomers get to share in the experience fans in 1976 reveled in without really having to do any homework. Creed is Rocky VII, that much is obvious, but it also throws so many similar jabs and hooks it’s a stretch to call this a truly original work. There are moments during which we get the sense we’re walking in the shadows of a legend, yet when other sequences beget the euphoric triumphs of Gavin O’Connor’s family feud Warrior, the negatives are somehow easier to shake off. When Rocky warns Donnie that he’s “seen this fight before,” we believe him yet we still have to see it for ourselves; that terrible sinking feeling be damned.

Creed‘s soundtrack thumps with original and familiar beats alike. Its hip hop-heavy focus helps set the feature apart; these songs are all attitude. They represent the spoken portion of Donnie’s near poetic, fully meteoric rise to fame as he soon finds himself taking on the light heavyweight world champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) in a Liverpool-based match-up for the ages. Tessa Thompson, who inserts herself into the narrative in the form of neighbor-turned-love interest Bianca, a musically-gifted young woman, contributes her voice to a few tracks. She also is a welcomed presence though her character’s career aspirations get lost in the shuffle all too quickly.

And of course this wouldn’t be a complete review without mentioning Stallone returning to these hallowed grounds. The film finds a galvanizing power in his physically broken, emotionally burdened Rocky Balboa. I suppose if Creed stands for anything other than the mesmerizing power of professional boxing it’s the vitality of family, even if that unit has been cobbled together from undesirable (and highly unlikely) circumstance. The most potent conversations take place between trainer and boxer when they have a disagreement over whether or not they’re actually a family at all. Watch Sly struggle to hold back tears as he rattles off the losses he’s experienced in the past.

I wasn’t prepared for the gravitas this unusual acting duo offers up, but that’s what I took home with me after witnessing the reinvigoration of a franchise that once looked to be hanging lifeless on the ropes.

Rocky and his protege atop the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Recommendation: Creed rests on tried-and-true formula but in the process it manages to focus on the emotional power of a legendary character being brought back to life by a possibly never-better Stallone. It finds new life in Jordan’s gung-ho Adonis Creed and I have to admit I wasn’t prepared to be carried so far away from the seat in which I sat over the course of this two-hour journey. The blueprint for future installments has seemingly been laid down. If you’ve been a fan of the Rocky franchise this is a must-see.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 133 mins.

Quoted: “This guy right here, that’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to face. I believe that’s true in the ring and I believe that’s true in life. Now show me something.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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30 thoughts on “Creed

  1. A pure crowd pleaser. And I freaking love that tagline! Had to dedicate a few sentences in my post to it.

    I liked Southpaw a lot too, but this is an easier watch, with better production and though a basic boxing story, still more fresher elements than most. I think I’ll be watching this again in theaters if I can 🙂 Nice review, Tom.

    • Cheers dude. A crowd pleaser and a solid story to boot. I think this is a very solid film, not just functioning as a boxing movie or a new installment into a fabled franchise, but as a stand-alone bit of cinema, it’s inspired. I’d classify it as one of the year’s biggest surprises.

    • Speaking as someone who’s only seen the first Rocky I have to say I wasn’t prepared for this to be very good. What I was treated to was something special. It’s up there with ‘Warrior’ for me.

  2. Great review Tom! I might have to check this out now. I do like Michael B Jordan, so let’s see where it goes.

    ““Train me,” he insists. “No,” Rocky replies.

    Then of course Rocky starts training him….” – LOOOOOOOOL! Naturally.

    • Hahah, glad this caused a chuckle! I thought it was a wee bit clever myself. Mostly b/c of how true it is. But that’s actually part of why I loved this movie, it manages to stay powerful and very emotional even with the sheer amount of cliches that it cannot help but include.

      If you’re a Rocky fan, I think you’ll really dig this but even if not, the story is very interesting. It’s good stuff. 🙂

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  4. Delighted to hear this is a good’un Tom. Too often we see sequels or reboots that don’t deliver, and instead threaten to tarnish legacies. We don’t get it over here until mid-January unfortunately, but at least it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait. Great review friend!

  5. I liked Southpaw and this sounds similar so I’m gonna see this maybe tonight. I have only seen the first Rocky movie so I’ll be missing all the references! But it really sounds worth it, I’m looking forward to this now mate, I trust your judgement 😀

    • Cheers Jordan. I think this is far and away better than Southpaw, but with that said you should really have a blast with this. It serves as a good film for those who haven’t seen any of the originals or for those who need a brushing-up on the subject

  6. I have been absolutely stunned by the tons of high marks this movie is getting. Pleasantly so! I had wrote the entire idea off. Now I can’t wait to see it. I almost saw it earlier this week but “Spotlight” was tops on my list. Now “Creed” has moved up to that spot.

    • Hope I’m not overselling anything here but for me, personally, this was a winning film. Very well acted and quite emotional.

    • Thanks Mark, I had a lot of fun with this. Stallone is back and he is great. Works very well with young Michael B. Jordan as well

  7. I’m just gonna quote from my review because I can’t say it any better: Creed (or Rocky VII, let’s be honest) is essentially a note for note remake of the original Rocky. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad. On the contrary it’s surprisingly solid. It’s just that this is a tried and true formula. It has worked before and I’m happy to report it works again.

    • I’m not gonna lie, your words were kind of the foundation of my argument. I was going to write something a lot less positive but when it came right down to it, this movie was hugely enjoyable so I thought anything less would be a bit of a disservice. Not that yours was harsh, but from my POV I had to give it high marks.

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