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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Movie Review - Creed

***Rocky Week -- Day 7***
***Note:  Spoilers may appear in all Rocky Week reviews.***
Creed (2015)
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellew, and Phylicia Rashad
Directed by Ryan Coogler

Without any shred of doubt, Creed is the best made film in the Rocky franchise.  Does that make it the best film overall?  Not quite, but it's definitely up there in terms of quality, acting, story, and direction.  While staying true to its roots with simple homages to the past, Creed introduces us to a new lead character to whom we in the audience admittedly don't quite have as much connection which hampers things a little bit.  Fortunately, though, Creed doesn't abandon all that made Rocky so successful, giving us a touching performance from our former title character in what may be the best role of Sylvester Stallone's career.

As a young boy, Adonis Johnson lived his life moving from foster home to foster home and eventually landed himself in a juvenile detention facility.  At the age of 13, Adonis is visited by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) who takes the young boy in and tells him of his true lineage -- that he is the result of a extramarital affair between her husband (the late Apollo Creed) and Adonis's mother.  Seventeen years pass and despite Mary Anne's wishes that he hold down a good job, Adonis (played as an adult by Michael B. Jordan) feels a passion for boxing and travels to Philadelphia to train with the man who helped to shape Apollo into the name that he was -- Rocky Balboa.

Rocky himself is a bit more weathered, a bit more weary of jumping back into the boxing world.  His pace of everything -- the way he talks, the way he walks -- has slowed as time and his boxing past has taken its toll on him.  Stallone plays Rocky vulnerable here -- and while we maybe saw tinges of that in Rocky Balboa, this adds huge layers of depth to a character we've long known.  Smartly (and perhaps this is due to the fact that this is the first Rocky film to not be written by Stallone), Rocky doesn't steal the spotlight.  Director Ryan Coogler has made this Adonis Creed's film, but Rocky and Stallone's portrayal are the reason the film succeeds as well as it does.

There's a visceral, in-your-face style that director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti bring to the table that we haven't seen in previous Rocky flicks.  Moreso than ever, we feel a part of the action -- we're in the ring fighting with or against Adonis, close enough to feel his pain and comprehend the pain he inflicts.  One scene in particular showcases Adonis's first "real" fight and it's completed in one take that is so blissfully choreographed and amazingly shot that I found myself awestruck.  But Coogler also allows for quieter moments to shine, particularly in some rather touching scenes between Michael B. Jordan and his love interest Bianca played by Tessa Thompson.  Jordan carries many of the same characteristics as Stallone in the first Rocky film, but there's a bit more of an innocence within the tough exterior -- an innocence that probably stems from a sense of hope and heartbreak (both stemming from his difficult, fatherless childhood) that Rocky himself never really experienced.  Thompson also does a nice job of bringing out the softer side of Adonis, obviously playing the "new Adrian," but she's certainly a captivating presence.

As mentioned, there is no doubt that Creed is the best made film in the Rocky franchise.  However, were I to choose to watch another Rocky flick, I'd go with Rocky Balboa first, followed by the original, and then give Creed another go (despite giving Creed a higher grade than the original Rocky).  In time, with inevitable subsequent Creed releases, I'll get to know Adonis a little better as a character and my opinion of this movie will likely only increase in its positivity.  As it stands now though, Creed succeeds for not only introducing us to a new title character, but giving tribute to the iconic Rocky.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

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