Creed (2015). Directed by Ryan Coogler. Screenplay by Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington. Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Tony Bellew. Produced by Chartoff-Winkler Productions & New Line Cinema. Distributed by MGM.
Last weekend, I watched Creed. Then, I came here and promised you guys a review of it but I was very slow to deliver, as you can see by the tardiness of this post. There’s a couple reasons for this: One, I was busy with other work and drama, so a movie review had to take a back seat. Two, I really wanted to give this film the love it deserves because it’s one of the best things I’ve seen all year. In fact, the only Rocky movie that could unequivocally be called better than this one is the original. It’s that fucking quality.
I will go ahead and tell you all that I am a huge fan of the Rocky franchise. I’ve seen all the movies and screened the original about 75 times. If I had to rank them, it would go like this…
The only movie on this list that is truly bad is Rocky V. Even then, the last fight scene from V is one of my favorites. You could argue that Rocky 2 tops Creed, but I think the director of the latest entry put it over the top. The whole film is top-notch. Both he and Michael B. Jordan (Adonis Creed) lead the way. Speaking of Mr. Jordan, I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time. I first saw him on All My Children, where he was a standout. Years later, I watched The Wire (one of the greatest TV shows of all-time) and saw him put in amazing work there as well. He is without question one of the best young actors we have today.
At first I had doubts about his ability to pull off this role, but those were quickly put to bed. I now think the filmmakers made the perfect choice. Still, without Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) the whole thing wouldn’t work. Here, he basically takes on the Mickey roll from the first few films. If you ask me, it’s some of the best work he’s ever done. It is a little startling to see a fragile Stallone but that’s the whole point. He’s always been somewhat of an underrated actor, but that may be about to change. There’s some Oscar buzz around his Creed performance. I don’t know if he’ll get the award but his performance here definitely deserves to be recognized at the top levels of the industry.
Some other notes: Tessa Thompson was great in her role and you can see where they’re going with it in future films (I’m assuming there will be at least one sequel). It looks like it’s going to be sad as fuck. But there’s no sadness with the work she did here. Great stuff. Phylicia Rashad also puts in some good work as Adonis Creed’s mother. The guy playing the reigning heavyweight champion, Tony Bellew (Ricky Conlan), also hit the right notes. All this is buoyed by the excellent directing job courtesy of Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station). The shot of Adonis coming to the ring during the last match is one of my favorites, but there’s several more I could have picked out to highlight. The fighting itself is also extremely well done.
Creed is one of the best movies to come out this year and I encourage all of you to go see it. Obviously, being a Rocky superfan, I loved it. Still, the quality stands on its own regardless. You are going to get more from it if you’ve seen the old movies though, there no doubt about that. The way they exploit the universe the franchise created is brilliant. They do just enough to weave in old shit without keeping this film from standing up on it’s own. Instead of using history as a crutch, Coogler has used it as an incredible accent. At the end of the day the whole thing plays like an updated Rocky for the new millennium. The story arc closely mirrors the first film and in the hands of lesser talents that could be disastrous, but instead it was nothing but win here. Creed is a everything I wanted and more.
Star Rating (out of 4): * * * *