From a distance, it may seem that “Creed” is just a quick cash grab for the “Rocky” franchise. Stallone is pushing 70, and there’s no way he could continue the series as the Italian Stallion. Hollywood could have kept pumping out more of these films is if they focused on his son, Rocky Jr., whom we first met in “Rocky II.” But what director Ryan Coogler does is focus the story on the son of Apollo Creed. And with the way it’s directed, I’d be more than happy to see this series continue.
Adonis Creed (a ferociously good Michael B. Jordan) never knew his father growing up. But he knows of his legacy. And just like his father, Adonis is looking to become a fighter. We see him get into fights at a young age, and then we see him do it as a side gig while he’s working a boring desk job during the week. His mother’s against the idea of seeing another man in her life take up fighting, especially after Apollo lost his life in the ring, but Adonis decides to quit his job, leave Los Angeles, and relocate to Philadelphia, so he can be trained by his father’s top rival, and also good friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
Rocky threw in the towel following the events of “Rocky Balboa,” and he’s now managing his own restaurant. Eventually, he decides to give the kid a chance, and he begins training him to be the next great fighter.
“Creed” does borrow some elements from the “Rocky” series, such as our lead character finding love in Philly through a singer-songwriter named Bianca (a great Tessa Thompson) and the whole thing coming down to one match against the number one-ranked fighter. But while Coogler has essentially made another “Rocky” film, he has also carved a new path for “Creed” to continue as its own series.
“Creed” gets up close with its fights. The sounds and visuals of the hooks, the uppercuts, and the body jabs rock your senses. One makes you feel like you’re ringside as the fight is taking place, while another makes you feel like you are in the ring itself. The latter is beautifully done in one take, too, and the match itself goes longer than one round. It’s a blast to watch.
Stallone has been getting some buzz for his seventh take as the Italian Stallion. At first, it may seem odd, since he hasn’t been nominated for anything after the first “Rocky” in 1976 – which won Best Picture at the Oscars. When we first see Stallone, the automatic thought is, “OK, he’s back as Rocky.” But as the film progresses, we see Rocky’s life change, and we see how much emotion pours out of Stallone during these moments. It’s the most challenging thing he’s done in years, and he’s certainly worthy of a nomination.
Coogler, who first popped up on the radar for the indie “Fruitvale Station,” makes a successful transition to the mainstream world. Keep an eye on this man, who’s only 29 years old right now. He’s got a great career ahead of him.