Creed is a winner. That’s my appraisal of the film, not a spoiler.
Michael B. Jordan, as Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed (from early Rocky movies), has a ton of charisma, looks and acting chops. But the reason Creed goes from good to great is Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.
Apollo Creed’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who is not his mother, rescues a young Adonis from juvenile detention in L.A. and raises him. When he is an adult, he ditches his office job to go to Philly and train with his dad’s opponent.
Rocky is running an Italian restaurant called Adrian’s. With just a bit of persuasion, he agrees to train Adonis, who moves into Rocky’s spare bedroom. Part of his regimen includes chasing chickens in Rocky’s backyard. (Will chicken chasing become a new workout element among Americans who are into fitness?)
Adonis does not want to be tagged as Apollo’s son, so he goes by an alias, but they call him Hollywood. As he trains, Adonis falls for Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a nightclub singer with a hearing loss. In fact, they meet when Adonis pounds on her door asking her to turn down her music.
Creed, who had fought several bouts in Tijuana before heading east, quickly gets a match with the son of the guy who runs Rocky’s old gym. After his performance in that fight, word slips out that his is the son of Apollo. Which leads to his getting booked for a championship fight in Britain versus “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). That fight is the film’s centerpiece.
Director Ryan Coogler captures the feel of Philadelphia with lots of street scenes and… a visit to Max’s for cheesesteaks! The obligatory climb up the Art Museum steps completes the circle back to the first Rocky.
Creed’s fight sequences are frighteningly good, especially those scenes shot from a camera positioned inside the ring. The Conlan fight is particularly brutal. In reality, such a fight with damaged boxers would possibly be stopped.
The Creed soundtrack teases with slight allusions to the melody and brassy feel of the famous Rocky theme before finally that song is heard.
The back-in-the-day Rocky Balboa was a bit of an unsophisticated galoot. The 2015 Rocky has accumulated some wisdom along the way. The new Rocky is just as likable as the old Rocky, just for different reasons. There’s even been a bit of Oscar buzz for Stallone!
I hesitate to use the expression “feel good movie of the year,” but Creed will leave you with a smile on your face. And it leaves the door open for sequels, which are sure to come.