December 7, 2015

Movie Review: Creed (2015)

Earlier this year I saw trailers for two boxing movies, one was obviously Creed, the other was the Kurt Sutter penned Southpaw. Knowing nothing other than the two trailers, I predicted that Creed would be the better of the two. Boy, was I right. It is not that Southpaw was all that bad, but aside from a strong lead performance, it never really grabbed me. Now. Creed on the other hand, while it is not exactly the most original film, but the movie is so well executed, it has this great build up. It grabs you emotionally and drags you into the moment. It is the sort of movie that will leave you exhausted.

The movie was directed by Ryan Coogler. a young director who came to my attention a few years back with his debut feature Fruitvale Station (which also featured Creed star Michael B. Jordan). It is my understanding that he wrote the story and pitched it to Sylvester Stallone, who loved the idea and helped champion it to the screen. Coogler co-wrote the screenplay with first timer Aaron Covington. The final movie is just a wonderful piece of crowd pleasing entertainment.

I honestly thought the Rocky story was done with Rocky Balboa when it came out nine years ago, I suspect Stallone felt the same way. That movie was a swansong for a classic cinematic creation, going out on his own terms. Who knew that years later they would find a way to not only get Sly to play Rocky again, but also reinvigorate and likely kick start a new era of the franchise? I am guessing probably no one. They did it and it works marvelously.

As the title suggests, Rocky takes a secondary role in this sequel, letting some new blood step up to the plate. Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Fantastic Four, Chronicle) gives a star making turn as the titular character. We are introduced to Adonis Creed using the last name Johnson, trying to distance himself from his father’s legacy. However, he cannot stay out of the ring. He is a troubled youth, always getting into fights, until he decides to take those fights into the ring.

He goes to Philadelphia in search of Rocky Balboa, hoping to get him to be his trainer. Of course things are never easy, but the two begin to work together. At the same time, we also learn about some other top tier fighters and a climactic showdown is foreshadowed.

While the boxing sequences are really well done, it is the characters that shine through. Stallone’s Rocky has this weariness to him, he has seen it all and been through the emotional ringer, there is not much left. He is resigned to running his restaurant. The idea of getting back in the boxing world is the furthest from his mind, but then he meets Adonis Johnson. Here is a troubled young man who is smart, but feels he must fight at every turn. He is working through some tough stuff. The two come together and they find a missing piece in the other, forming an odd family.

Creed is a movie that will touch your heart and make you cheer. It is a movie that takes the familiar and executes so well that you forget that what you are seeing, you have seen before. It does not seek to bust down walls so much as use a familiar character to introduce a new one, trading on its past for a new future. All that is old is new again. I honestly did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It would be hard not to recommend it.


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