Friday, November 27, 2015

Creed - Review


Academy Award Winner Sylvester Stallone revives once again his “Rocky” franchise tale with his 7th story about his iconic persona aka “Italian Stallone” aka Rocky Balboa. Only in this latest effort the title of this film is called “Creed” which is named after Rocky’s very first nemesis “Apollo Creed” who after the first four films went from being in the ring mutual combatants to best of friends until Apollos Creed’s surprising death at the hands of the super Russian Boxer named Ivan Drago (as if you didn’t already know all this already).

In this installment Director Ryan Coogler’s who directed the critically acclaimed “Fruitville Station” and who looks a lot like the lead actor Michael B. Jordan, the story “Creed” revolves around a smart and up and coming boxer named Adonis Johnson (Jordan) who was born out an affair Apollo Creed had with his mother. It also resulted in Adonis never really knowing his famous heavyweight champion father who died before he was born.  Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer.  Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo—the fierce rival who became his closest friend. 

So eventually and grudgingly so, Rocky agrees to take him on. So we watch Rocky train the young fighter and with Rocky in his corner, it isn’t long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title…but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?

PROS: Also starring Tessa Thompson (“Selma,”) as Creed’s girlfriend Bianca, Phylicia Rashad as Apollo’s widow; and English pro boxer and former three-time ABA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Bellew as boxing champ “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the film “Creed” works big time. It captures the magic of the very first Rocky film with the right amount of old school Rocky touches as well some modern touches to keep a new generation of ephemeral minded film goers thoroughly engaged. The writing also works well as it deliberately and patiently develops the central charcter relationships with realism allowing the viewer over time to seeing and hearing something that is meaningful, with deep emotional consequences and honest humanity. 

Also kudos to Director Coogler, who directs his film with an authentic sense of the moment and no preordained out comes. It takes you down an inevitable path of a big fight at the end but you don’t really see it coming because of his fine hand at directing what could  have been just another Rocky story completed exhausted of any new plots to sell.  

CONS: The editing in a few scenes seemed a bit too snappy and quick for my taste but this is only in few instances and only bothers someone like me who has a sense of what good editing can do to making a scene go from good to great to iconic. Ultimately it’s no big deal in “Creed”.

CONCLUSION:  “Creed” has genuine earnestness at its core with real human warmth and crowd-pleasing surprises. But the biggest surprise is actor Sly Stallone. Now hold on while I go down stairs to get a hit of “Woodford Reserve” bourbon before I write any further, I needed to make sure my mind is right before writing any further.

OK, I'm back and here it goes………….. Sly Stallone, deserves an Oscar Nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Yes, Stallone cuts through some of the corny and sometimes bravado laden dialog from some of his previous films, including some of the Rocky films, to deliver one of the most honest, weighty, moving and stirring performance you will see all year. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

He manages to capture what we like about his first Rocky film which was that obscure guy who was both quiet and yet funny, but above all filled with endearing optimism by just working hard and being honest and kind to friends both in and out of the ring. He not only exhibits these same qualities in “Creed”, he makes that occasional lumpy feeling jump in your throat as that occasional slightly slurred speech “lug of a guy” you just want to root for again all because he is just loveable nice.

“Creed” is crafted with a lot of smarts that over time earns the viewer’s trust in that you are seeing real people on the big screen who are putting their real affections and real honesty on the line for others they care about. In the end just as with the first Rocky film it all comes together to do some heartstring-tugging on your soul.

I hope “Creed” is the last film for this series, but something tells me it won’t be – hey people in Hollywood will always want to make more money if they can, so I am guessing there will be more coming now.

Still, do not pass up this “Creed” just because you have some preconceived notions about this being another recycled clichéd Rocky film; no go see it in the theater for the well-choreographed action, good acting and moving story.

In the end “Creed” is “IN-CREED-IBLE” entertainment for 2015.

3 – 3/4 Stars

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