Nothing to do with the Christian rock band of the same name, Creed is the latest Rocky movie, in which the franchise comes Full Circle.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is back, complete with hat, training montages and (thankfully) no Paulie. This time, Rocky’s in the corner, training the young Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of franchise heavyweight Apollo Creed. After all, this is the Rocky universe, where boxing ability is hereditary and everyone is six months away from championship.
These cinematic shortcuts are forgivable, thanks to the movie’s commitment to its characters, old and new. Stallone actually does some real acting as Rocky, now resembling his statue that stands in Philadelphia, deservedly earning a Golden Globe nomination (even though they lost credibility long before nominating Al Pacino for Danny Collins).
Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson are also strong, and the film manages to inject youthful energy into an old format. Ryan Coogler directs with the same feeling and urgency he displayed in Fruitvale Station, breathing new life into a tired franchise. He makes us care about the fight scenes via investment in the characters, the dramatic punches landing as hard as the physical jabs.
This all builds to a trademark boxing showdown, as Adonis takes on Liverpudlian champ ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), the first Scouse accent to grace the Rocky franchise (hardly a problem for fans who’ve had to listen to Sly Stallone for the last 40 years). The fights are all expertly shot and choreographed, with fighters taking more punishment than the Labour Party on polling day.
With knockout performances, drama and music (including Philly’s own The Roots), Creed is a great Rocky film, and the best sports movie since Magic Mike.