Before the morning screening of Creed, my fellow critics and I were discussing the advance reviews on the new film, a spin off from the Rocky Balboa series of movies. Upon hearing that there was some Oscar buzz we were a little taken aback which led us to quip “calm the hell down people, it’s a Stallone movie, remember?” I’m telling you this now just to show you the contrast in how wrong I was to think that. This review is me unhooking my foot from my mouth so I can eat my words.
Coming almost ten years after the last installment, Rocky Balboa, Creed looks to put a new generation in the driver seat as Michael B. Jordan charismatically plays the role of Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed. Jordan is so amazing in this film that he may well be in the conversation for the big awards at the beginning of next year. I’ll even go as far as saying that Sylvester Stallone himself would be welcome in the supporting actor category, Yes, I’m eating my words with vigor.
The film starts out with a young Adonis fighting other kids in a juvenile detention center when he gets a visit from Mary Anne Creed, the widow of Apollo who died in the fight with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Adonis was the product of an affair Apollo had and was born after his death. Mary Anne takes in Adonis and moves him out to Los Angeles.
Cut to present day and Adonis (now “Donnie”) is fighting unsanctioned fights in Tijuana, Mexico with a 16-0 record, destroying all put in front of him. At the end of this fight there’s a beautiful smash cut to twelve hours later where Donnie sits in his office job, pushing papers. Immediately, he quits to focus on fighting full time, abandoning his new promotion he’d just earned causing a rift with Mary Anne.
After being turned away from his father’s gym in California, Donnie packs up everything and moves to Philadelphia in the hopes of getting Apollo’s friend and greatest opponent Rocky Balboa to give him the training he needs to become the greatest. Having separated himself from the sport and now just running his Italian restaurant Adrian’s, Rocky is more than reluctant to train the young Creed at first, but then, very much like the Burgess Meredith Mickey character, takes on getting Donnie to be an unstoppable force in the ring.
Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, who also wrote the story and screenplay, gives a deep emotional heart to this film that is infused with a wistful yet triumphant nostalgia that constantly plays the audiences heart strings like a flamenco guitar player. There are scenes that match up the original with the “new blood” of this series that are truly breathtaking and made me tear up like I was watching a Star Wars trailer. The results are unforgettable and make Creed one of the most entertaining films of 2015.
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan’s chemistry on screen together is brilliant, as the two play an interesting coach and trainer yet underlyingly family dynamic, which just adds to Stallone’s role as a widely respected but fading hero that much more. If Jordan and Stallone’s work isn’t enough, Creed’s love interest Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson, comes off completely genuine and heartfelt. It’s also impossible to take your eyes off Thompson every moment she’s on screen. Her beauty is completely mesmerizing and I hope she does a lot more in the future.
For those clambering for a sports movie that will inspire you, Creed is the best one I’ve seen in years, wiping clean all the horrible cliches and underwriting for the earlier dud, Southpaw. It’s the plan for Warner to go ahead and make Creed his own franchise and, with the script for a sequel already complete, it looks like a series that is good to go in my opinion. My butt will definitely be in the seat for Adonis Creed’s next battle. I just hope the steer away from fighting Clubber Lang’s or Ivan Drago’s steroid infused offspring. Wait, that may actually work! Copyright The Stevil Dead on that! I give Creed a five out of five, a must see movie.