As a longtime fan of the “Rocky” franchise, this is a movie that I have been waiting for. I thought things ended with “Rocky Balboa,” and I was happy to be proven wrong. Especially by a movie that didn’t suck.
“Creed” is about Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson, as played by Michael B. Jordan (and Alex Henderson in scenes featuring the character as a child). As most of the log lines read, “he never knew his famous father, but boxing is in his blood.” Ryan Coogler, the director, does a good job of actually putting that last sentence on screen, and not making it cheesy.
See, Adonis’ mom isn’t Apollo’s wife, Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad), from the film series. Apollo had an affair, and impregnated another woman. Then Ivan Drago beat him to death. Hence Adonis having the last name Johnson. In the beginning of the film, Adonis is in a juvenile hall, and that’s when Mary Anne comes into the picture, explains who he is, and offers to take him in. Adonis takes her up on that offer, and lives his following years in luxury.
All the while, “boxing was in his blood.” When the movie fast forwards to present day, we find out that Adonis has been sneaking off to Tijuana to fight in amateur matches. He’s been getting so much satisfaction out of those fights, in fact, that he gives up his cushy job at a securities firm, and heads off to Philadelphia, PA to pursue his career in boxing.
Why Philly, you ask? Well, that’s a dumb question. Haven’t you ever seen a Rocky movie? That’s where The Italian Stallion lives, and Adonis is under the belief that if he is truly going to get anywhere as a fighter, he needs the great Rocky Balboa to train him. After all, it’s pretty much the closest that Adonis could ever get to having his dad train him.
It takes a bit of convincing, but once Adonis gets through to Rocky, the film really starts to take off. Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan have excellent chemistry. There are the typical side plots for a Rocky movie, of course: Adonis has a love interest, and an antagonistic fighter. Both are good, and the performances are solid, but they don’t hold a candle to the Rocky and Adonis scenes.
I’ll admit it: I almost cried a few times. This is one of Stallone’s best performances in years. If you’ve seen the trailer directly above, then you know that Rocky is sick. I won’t tell you anymore than that, except that Sly gets every ounce of sympathy possible. He’s so good. Rocky has always been a character who’s happy, and full of life. After he finds out he’s sick, you can see the man start to be at odds with himself. There’s a change in body language, and everything.
Subtle things like that are why, when he saw the first “Rocky,” the late Roger Ebert wrote that Sly reminded him of Marlon Brando.
His name is Sylvester Stallone, and, yes, in 1976 he did remind me of the young Marlon Brando. How many actors have come and gone and been forgotten who were supposed to be the “new Brando,” while Brando endured? And yet in “Rocky” he provides shivers of recognition reaching back to “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He’s tough, he’s tender, he talks in a growl, and hides behind cruelty and is a champion at heart. “I coulda been a contender,” Brando says in “On the Waterfront.” This movie takes up from there.
I don’t know of any acting giants that I could compare Michael B. Jordan’s performance to. All I know is it’s great, and extremely moving. There’s a scene in a jail cell that should hit you right in the feels. If not, you’re probably dead inside.
Of course, I have to talk about the climactic fight: IT WAS AWESOME! The end fights have always been good in these films, but some of them….well, let’s just say they weren’t shot as well as they could have been. Bad angles gave away distances between fighter’s fists, and an actual connection.
There’s none of that in this. Adonis Creed, as he’s known by the end of the movie, has something to prove, and he does it by putting on a brutal back and forth slugfest with his previously mentioned antagonistic opponent: “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (as played by Tony Bellew).
Finally, let me compliment Ryan Coogler. He did a great job directing this, and co-writing it with Aaron Covington. This was a film that carried the hopes of generations worth of fans with it, and it could have easily been botched. Instead, we got a funny, moving, exciting, and overall fantastic film. As soon as you get the chance, do yourself a favor, and check it out.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Warner Bros. Picture – © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.