Do a Shot: when the CREED title flashes on the screen
Shotgun a Beer (or some eggs): when you hear Rocky say “How Ya Doin?”
Mix a Jack and Coke: when you hear the sprinkling of the piano theme from Rocky
Down a 32 oz: when the final fight commences
By: Jake Turner (A Toast) –
In 1976, he was the ultimate underdog vs. Apollo Creed. Three years later, he had the ultimate rematch. Then he went through tough times, but rose to the occasion to battle Clubber Lang (Mr. T), Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), and… do far less impact to Tommy Gunn. Yuck, that makes me relive Rocky V. Finally, he walked out of the ring at age 60 and ended his legacy.
His name is Rocky Balboa. Sylvester Stallone’s calling card to Hollywood immortality.
Balboa is out of the ring and begins to train a kid named Adonis Johnson (who looks and talks a lot like Apollo) in Creed, the latest story in the “Rocky” franchise. If this is the start of a new franchise within the “Rocky” universe, then sign me up.
This is one of the best films of the year! The best one since Rocky III (personal opinion).
Michael B. Jordan is Adonis Johnson, a kid that was in and out of foster homes, and ended up in juvenile hall until mysteriously Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), the widow of the late Apollo Creed (whom died in the ring), offers to take care of him.
Thus, the credits roll as…CREED flashes in big bold letters. I could feel the goosebumps across my skin.
Johnson has been fighting on the side across the border in Mexico, sporting an 15-0 record. According to Tony “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris), now running things in L.A. at his father’s gym, he knows all about what the ring did to Apollo and even his late father, Duke. However, Johnson quits his high paying job anyway and heads due west to… Philadelphia.
(cue Rocky theme)
Incredibly early in the movie, Adonis meets Rocky Balboa (Stallone) at his restaurant, Adrian’s, and even talks the “good ole days”. He asks Rocky if he will train him. Now, it gets as predictable as any “Rocky” film (with a few twists), but it injects enough freshness that I recommend you go see the movie (right after you finish the final word).
Rocky meets Adonis. Have we met before?
Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) is up to the task to living up to Stallone’s massive heroic but fictional franchise by staying within the Balboa universe while bringing his own flavor that works beautifully. Coogler’s camerawork is different from other Rocky films. He shoots the majority of his shots from the back of his lead and in the ring is no exception when he circles and swoops around the actors. However, when a punch lands, he puts it front and center. Also, the strong writing by Coogler and Aaron Covington mixes in realism and inspirational dialogue effectively.
Jordan is becoming one of the best young actors of this generation. The complexity of Johnson’s persona is uncanny, embodying his father’s stubborn passion, fighting style, and inability to leave the ring. He has a tender side, too, as he starts a slow-burning romance with an aspiring singer named Bianca (Tessa Thompson) who really holds her own with Jordan in their individual scenes together. One great scene is how they meet and she unleashes her hardcore Philly persona. The romance never brings the film down.
Now, let’s get to the man of the hour.
A lot of credit is due to Stallone, who for the first time had nothing to do with the writing or directing (just a producer credit), and was able to take Rocky out of the ring. It’s his best performance since the 1976 original. Balboa is not the fighter he used to be or even the one we thought we saw in Rocky Balboa in 2006. He’s a shell of himself, dealing with a lot of personal issues, and still rightfully mourning his late wife, Adrian. Even his monologues have that underdog feel, but also have plenty of human emotion. What always made a good Rocky movie were the human themes shared between the characters. The scenes with Rocky and Adonis training were sports poetry. Where the past meets the present. Choked me up every time. Seriously, he should be nominated for an Oscar come February. This could have easily been a mess, but with his involvement in the film, it stays the course and becomes a worthy addition to one of the greatest film franchises ever (my personal favorite).
Can’t keep an underdog down.
Now, just one little flaw was present, and that was the lack of conviction of a memorable villain. With “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), we don’t get the feel of an Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang, or even Apollo Creed (in the early films), but he’s effective enough to where it doesn’t warrant another beer.
Creed paints a new picture for the Rocky franchise, but reminds us of the nostalgic memories while creating its own in the process. There’s excellent chemistry between Adonis and Rocky, Stallone’s Oscar-caliber performance, thrilling fight scenes, and respect to the late Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” theme. To quote Balboa. “It ain’t over, til it’s over.” After seeing Creed, I certainly hope not. If you will excuse me, I have some stairs to climb.