(2015) *** Pg-13
132 min. Warner Bros. Director: Ryan Coogler. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson.

/content/films/4856/1.jpgRocky’s back, though not the way you’re used to him. Creed puts Rocky in the corner and makes a new boxing star out of Adonis Johnson, a.k.a. “Hollywood” Donnie Johnson, a.k.a. Adonis “Hollywood” Creed, a.k.a. Adonis Johnson Creed. Yes, this is the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s frenemy from Rocky and its first three sequels, and boy, does the new kid have daddy issues.

Directed and co-written (with Aaron Covington) by Ryan Coogler, Creed takes very seriously the original six films—1976’s Rocky through 2006’s Rocky Balboa—as an ur text, worshipfully stitching it to what looks to be a refreshed franchise, a sequel franchise, if you will. Sylvester Stallone remains the one and only Rocky, but the man who wrote all the films and directed four of them here allows himself to be a supporting player (if also a producer). There’s a kind of rhyming of fact and fiction there, as lion in winter Balboa proves reluctant to be involved in the boxing world again, like Stallone having determined never again to strap on the gloves. And it’s part of Creed’s marketing twist that this is the first Rocky film in which the character never throws a punch.

That’s the job of Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, reteaming with his Fruitvale Station writer-director), who we first meet as a juvie-inmate orphan child (Alex Henderson) in 1998 Los Angeles. When Creed’s widow (Phylicia Rashad) adopts him into a life of luxury and tells the boy he’s Apollo’s bastard child, Adonis relaxes his fist (he’s wanted, and he doesn’t have to fight anymore), but he never loses his natural proclivity for fighting, and his curiosity about his father only grows. In the present day, Adonis remains in a searching frame of mind, so he quits his job with a financial group and flies to Philadelphia to literally follow in his father’s footsteps and, for that matter, footwork.

In many ways, Creed does the same with 1976’s Rocky, but casting Stallone in the Burgess Meredith role of manager-trainer. In Philly, Creed finds romance (sadly perfunctory here) with singer-songwriter Bianca (Tessa Thompson), suffers embarrassment, trains in montage (natch), and makes his way to a climactic championship bout. For a while, the Adonis-Rocky relationship plays as something close to buddy comedy, but eventually it settles into a tale of male bonding extraordinaire, stiff competition to Brian’s Song as the go-to for tear-wiping masculine sensitivity. Coogler stokes plenty of poignant moments and nostalgic throwbacks, though there comes a moment where he laughably overreaches in search of his iconic “steps” shot (don’t worry, the actual steps also put in a charming appearance). Jordan again proves his star charisma, and Stallone’s terrific again, his signature role on a roll from the well-rounding Rocky Balboa.

All in all, Creed is questionable as a film (sparring with formula), good as a movie, and brilliant as a franchise-extender. It’s shameless, near-surgically effective cross-generational corn for guys. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Share/bookmark: Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Sponsored Links