Friday, December 4, 2015

Creed - Review


Directed by Ryan Coogler

Produced by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, William Chartoff, Charles Winkler and David Winkler

Screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington
Story by Ryan Coogler. Based on Characters by Sylvester Stallone

Michael B. Jordan
Sylvester Stallone
Tessa Thompson
Phylicia Rashād
Tony Bellew

Cinematography by Maryse Alberti

Released: November 25, 2015 (USA)

Synopsis: Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born. However, boxing is in his blood, so he seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and asks the retired champ to be his trainer.

Review: Even though this could be considered the seventh Rocky film, both a spin-off from the original series and a successor to 2006's Rocky Balboa, this film is definitely a spin-off of the Rocky franchise– without being a sequel.

The story is really good and deftly straddles the line of being an homage in places without being a copy. You think you know where everything is going, and while you’re probably right, it’s still so cleverly done that it never feels trite.

Michael B. Jordan is as great as ever as the title character Adonis “Doni” Johnson, the biological son of Apollo Creed born after Apollo died (in 1985’s Rocky IV). Jordan not only gives a great acting performance filled with equal parts vulnerability and strength, but you can tell that he took the boxing training seriously as well. Through Jordan and Ryan Coogler’s direction, Creed has a very realistic portrayal of boxing and boxing training.

Jordan was not the only good performance in the picture as every performance excels. Phylicia Rashād, as Apollo’s widow/Doni’s adopted mother “Mary Ann” and Tessa Thompson as Doni’s girlfriend “Bianca”, the women in Doni’s life were great in the film each bringing their own fortitude to help make Doni the strong man he needs to be. Rashād is pretty much the "mom role", but Thompson is giving a whole character of her own and not just "the girlfriend".

Because every boxing film needs an antagonist boxer, Creed has one in "'Pretty' Ricky Conlan" portrayed by real-life pugilist Tony "Bomber" Bellew. Bellew was also really good and menacing in his role. The real surprise in this picture though was Sylvester Stallone. I repeat this is NOT a Rocky sequel. It is totally Adonis [Creed] Johnson's picture, but even in a small supporting role Stallone gave the best performance I’ve ever seen from him. All of the “awards talk” is completely valid.

Ryan Coogler’s direction is really great as he skillfully crafted the aforementioned “very realistic portrayal of boxing and boxing training” with thrilling suspense. As it should be, the “big match” was the most thrilling part of the film. The punching feels real, the trauma feels real, the agony feels real! The boxing is not the only great thing about this picture. The dramatic notes are equally thrilling. The drama is good throughout, but as he did with the third act in 2013’s Fruitvale Station, the third act in Creed is powerful and strikes all the right notes.

I will echo the buzz online, Creed is a terrific picture, Michael B. Jordan the truth and Ryan Coogler the real deal!

This film conceptualized by Ryan Coogler, took a lot to get pull together. After 2013’s Fruitvale Station (which I reviewed here ) when Coogler signed with WME (William Morris Endeavor, talent agency) he identified Creed as a dream project. While Coogler already had the relationship with Michael B. Jordan (from Fruitvale Station), the agency put him together with Sylvester Stallone. Stallone loved the idea, a spin-off of his original Oscar-winning 1976 film Rocky and felt it was strong enough for him to bring back his signature screen character. Stallone and Coogler then approached MGM’s Gary Barber and Jon Glickman, and they flipped for it. (Some info from Deadline).

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