Creed happens to the seventh entry in the Rocky saga, it is both a sequel and a spin-off of the original series with the film concentrating on Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of famous boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died in a boxing match in Rocky IV. Adonis wasn’t born until after his father’s death and wants to follow his father’s footsteps in boxing. He seeks a mentor who is the former heavyweight boxing champion and former friend of Apollo Creed, the retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and together the two must work to take Adonis to the top and face even deadlier opponents than his father ever faced.
The Rocky movies have never been my cup of tea. I found the first one, middling at best, could never get into Rocky 2 or 3 and did not bother with the next three, so as someone who is not a fan of the series I did not have any particularly high expectations going into this. But boy, was I surprised.
Despite being the seventh film in the Rocky franchise, Creed feels fresh and very nostalgic. This is a film that makes subsequent nods to it’s predecessors but always manages to stand on it’s own and most importantly, never loses focus of it’s characters or its story, and that is what primarily makes it feel so fresh.
Ryan Coogler, the same guy behind the harrowing Fruitvale Station infuses the film with an uniquely visceral and gritty feel through some insanely kinetic camerawork. There is one specific single-take boxing sequence that is left me at the edge of my seat and how brilliantly it is pulled off speaks volumes about Coogler’s talent as a filmmaker.
But Coogler’s influence extends to more than being just the director, he is also a storyteller and as a storyteller he does a superb job of crafting a story with genuine heart and emotion. In a way he simultaneously tells two stories, one focusing on Adonis, while the other, a far more secondary one concentrating on the aging Rocky Balboa, and while there are beats that may certainly remind you of the original, the story for the most part is unique in it’s own way and carries tremendous dramatic heft.
And Coogler gets all the help he needs thanks to two fantastic central performances from Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Jordan, who has basically been moving from strength to strength since Fruitvale Station continues his rise as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. But ultimately it’s Sylvester Stallone whose performance stand-out most.
As an old Rocky Balboa, Stallone gives the performance of his career, one that is both nuanced and beautifully understated and one that sure to win him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Altogether, Creed is probably the best sports or boxing movie you are likely to see this year (Take that, Southpaw!) and in my opinion it is easily the best film of the Rocky series as well. This is a movie that is genuinely gritty, powerful and packs some real heart and emotion, as well as two outstanding lead performances.