Raise your hand if you thought the world needed another “Rocky” film. Yeah, I didn’t think so either, but, though “Creed” is a bit formulaic at times, director Ryan Coogler’s film is undeniably entertaining. Furthermore, Sylvester Stallone likely, after 40 years battling Arnold Schwarzenegger for the title “king of the one-liners,” put himself into Oscar contention for his performance.
Now the old, grizzled veteran, Rocky Balboa spends his days working at his restaurant Adrian’s, visiting the graves of his loved ones, but he rarely ventures into Mickey’s old boxing gym. That is until Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) shows up. The film plays out essentially like the original; a down-on-his luck outsider rises to glory through sheer determination and with the help of a wizened, old trainer – this time Rocky.
However, it’s not Rocky climbing into the ring, but instead Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son whose entire career, until he meets Rocky, has been spent fighting in Tijuana against inferior competition. Orphaned for a considerable amount of his childhood, Adonis is a born fighter – he has his father’s blood. And, despite his adoptive mother’s best efforts, forgoes a career utilizing his education to chase the glory his father once held. His adoptive mother by the way is Apollo’s widow.
Flying from California to Philadelphia in search of Rocky, Adonis quickly shows that, though untrained, he’s a natural talent. It’s evident for those around Adonis that he’s an educated fellow; however, it’s Philly so having a GED makes you uppity. Anyway, Adonis quickly earns the title Hollywood, but shows a determination not often found among Hollywood’s privileged offspring. After weeks of constant badgering, Rocky finally decides to train Adonis.
It’s fun watching Rocky put Adonis through the same old-techniques that Mickey had Rocky drill in the first film. As we see Adonis work his way through the agony and sacrifice that is par for the course as a professional pugilist, we begin to appreciate the first film again as Coogler pays homage to Sylvester Stallone’s classic.
The storyline is a bit unbelievable, but it doesn’t make it any less fun. After 15 unsanctioned boxing matches, Adonis is thrown in against a Top 15 fighter because that fighters father trains him in Mickey’s gym and is jealous that Rocky came out of retirement to train Adonis rather than his son. And, without much surprise, after a six-week training camp, Adonis has a less-than-desirable performance but comes out on top due to sheer determination.
After the unexpected victory, word is leaked that Adonis is Apollo’s offspring. The world champ, a soon-to-be imprisoned Brit, and his manager take notice of Adonis – or at least his name. They offer Adonis and Rocky and opportunity they can’t refuse. So, despite really only one professional bout, Adonis is set to take on the Pound-for-Pound best fighter in the world.
The climax is predictable. You only need to watch the original to know how it ends. However, what makes this film so great is that Coogler, Jordan and Stallone give knockout performances as director and actors. The film follows closely to the original, but, after almost four decades, it’s nice to enjoy a well-directed, well-acted underdog story. If all you can say after seeing the film is that it was like the original, well than that’s not all that bad. “Creed” is the best of the franchise since Stallone first introduced us to the greatness that is “The Italian Stallion.”
4 stars out of 5
“Creed” is rated Pg-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.