Movie Review with Jeff McCullough: Creed

By Jeff McCullough on December 10, 2015 from Movie Review via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It's been 40 years since Rocky Balboa first stepped into the ring, creating what is almost certainly the greatest sports franchise in cinema history. But 40 years is a long time, and the idea of the last entry, simply titled Creed, being not only an amazing film in its own right, but probably the best Rocky sequel ever written seems as unlikely as Balboa fighting 15 rounds with Apollo all those years ago. But just like the Italian Stallion himself, Creed defies the odds, going the distance and delivering one of the best films of 2015.
 
The product of Apollo’s affair, Adonis “Donny” Creed never knew his famous father, and his mother died when he was just a boy. Indeed, when Apollo’s widow Mary Anne finds Donny, he’s spending time in solitary for fighting.  Things begin to look up for the young thug when in a staggering showcase of love, Mary takes the young child under her wing and raises him as her own.
 
Cut to 2015, and Donny is living a comfortable if not extravagant live. The differences between him and Rocky are pronounced. Donny works a comfortable white collar job, living in a mansion with his mother; in his youth Rocky lived in the slums, breaking fingers for the local mob boss. Rocky boxed not just because he wanted to, but because he had too. As he so eloquently puts in the original film, he fights “because I can’t sing and dance.”
 
This is in direct opposite to Adonis, who could very easily live a life of relative ease, but chooses to go into boxing. While he might not be able to sing and dance, he has an education, high paying job, and all the opportunities Rocky never had. These differences between trainer and protégé (because of course Balboa ends up training the son of his belated friend) make Creed a distinct film, echoing the Rocky series before it, but never feeling like a rip off.
 
And yeah, there are some similarities between the seventh film in a series and its predecessors (go figure), but Creed hones it down to rhythm as smooth as anything in the sweet science. The boxing scenes are spectacular, with the best being a two-round brawl halfway through the film, taking place all in one mesmerizing shot. Overall though, the fighting is often on the ropes, with dramatic moments taking center stage.
 
It’s a testament to both promising newcomer turned superstar Michael B. Jordan and whom I previously considered a past his prime, dried out piece of beef jerky Sylvester Stallone that the story is so powerful. When we pick up with Creed, Rocky isn’t doing so hot. Numerous health problems, the death of his loved ones, and lack of hope have turned the champion into a shadow of his former self. It’s through Apollo’s child that he is given a new will to live.
 
Stallone will always be best remembered as a character actor so perhaps then it is not so surprising his best performance in years is a reprisal of a previous role.  A movie with an old, depressed, and cancer-filled Balboa may not sound like a good time, but Sylvester makes it  into such a believable symbol of suffering, it’s hard not to root for the underdog to succeed one more time.
 
Creed might be an undisputed champion, but there are still a few flaws in its game. Michael B. Jordan is excellent as Donny, but his story doesn’t stand as strong as Balboa’s. His love interest feels more than a little tacked on, especially when compared with the truly real adoration shared between Rocky and Adrian in the original film. And while by and large the narrative similarities that have always plagued the Rocky series aren’t too pronounced here, this is a very predictable film.
 
None of it really matters though, because in the end, Creed doesn’t just go the distance, it knocks out its competition in the first round. The long and epic saga of Rocky Balboa has finally gone full circle, delivering the best film in 40 years, and one of the finest boxing movies of its time.
 
4 out of 5



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