Sunday, September 04, 2016

Creed (2015) ***

The first “Rocky” movie was one of the great films. It was one of those rare movies that wins awards and is also imminently watchable. It's timeless. The sequels that followed, most would agree, got progressively worse. “Creed,” the newest installment in the franchise, re-captures some of that early magic, although it still isn't as good as the original.

“Creed” basically repackages the original plot. Adonis(Michael B. Jordan), Apollo Creed's troubled, illegitimate son, wants to be a professional boxer. He seeks out his late father's old friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), and begs him to train him. Adonis displays some promise, and then, because of his famous name, is offered a championship fight. Everyone figures the world champion will beat this upstart easily, but we've seen enough Rocky movies to know that it won't go that way.

It's all very much the formula of the first Rocky, including the upstart boxer getting a shot at the title, falling in love with a quirky girl, and lots of great training montages. The lack of originality would be unforgivable if it weren't for the top-notch performances. Michael B.Jordan is simply magnetic. He commits 100% to every scene, and he is clearly going places. It's Sylvester Stallone, however, who really elevates “Creed.” Watching his aged fighter retreat inward as he is given a cancer diagnosis is truly gutting. Watching him hike out to the cemetery to sit by Adrian's grave and read her the newspaper is heartbreaking. This may be Stallone's best work.

The fight scenes are as rousing as those in any “Rocky” movie, way more fun than watching actual boxing. The training scenes mostly recycle stuff from earlier films, including the old, catch-the-chicken game. Still, for a movie that doesn't really have much new to say, “Creed” is way more entertaining than it has a right to be.

3 stars out of 5

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