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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Creed | Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Bellow | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

Creed

More than the seventh installment in the Rocky series, Creed is intended to be a spinoff of the Rocky franchise.

Sylvester Stallone returns once again as Rocky Balboa, the role that catapulted him to movie stardom.  But it has been 40 years since he first got in the ring as a contender in the original Rocky that won the Oscar for best picture in 1976. At 69 years old, the actor is way to old to fight in the ring. However, training someone who has what it takes is another thing and that is where Creed comes into the picture.

Directed by Ryan Coogler who co-wrote the script with Aaron Covington (the first Rocky film NOT written by Stallone) Creed reunites the filmmaker with his 2013's Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan (who buffed up for the role) in a story that follows Apollo Creed's illegitimate son Adonis Johnson's quest to follow in the footsteps of the father he never knew.

After his birth mother died, Adonis “Donny” Johnson (Jordan) a troubled, angry kid prone to getting into fights, bounced from one foster home to another, eventually landing in juvenile detention facilities until Apollo's well to do widow Mary Ann (Phylicia Rashad) finds and takes him to live with her at her palatial Los Angeles mansion. Even though she adamantly disapproves of Donny wanting to be a prizefighter, because she doesn't want to see him suffer the same fate as her deceased husband,  it doesn't take too long before the driven young man, quits his day job in finance to concentrate on his boxing career, as a way to unleash his pent up anger. Unable to get anyone to train him in Los Angeles, he packs his bags and travels to Philadelphia and approaches Rocky at the Italian restaurant he runs named after his wife Adrian, and asks him to be his trainer.

Coogler, is a big fan of the Rocky movies and doesn't sway from the tried and true formula that made Rocky such a huge success.  The predictable factors are all in place. After Rocky turns Donny down as his trainer, asking why Donny would pick a fighter's life when he doesn't need to, there is no doubt that the aged, former heavyweight champ, who didn't want to get back into the game, eventually reconsiders. Donny moves in with Rocky, and before they begin a heavy training regimen, Rocky tells Donny to look in the mirror and see that the toughest opponent in boxing and life is himself. Soon, as expected, they develop a bond with Donny calling Rocky “Unc”, as in Uncle.

Of course, Donny has have a love interest, and Tessa Thompson (seen in Dear White People earlier this year) fills the bill as the smart and strong Bianca, a pretty R&B artist with a progressive hearing loss, who says that singing makes her feel alive.  As for his big chance to be a contender for the title, that comes in the form of “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, the British champ from Liverpool on his way to a seven year prison term (played by real-life boxer turned actor Anthony Bellow) for illegal gun possession. Donny has been fighting under the name “Hollywood Donny” because he wants to make it on his own. But, when Conlan's manager insists that Donny fights under his father's name Creed, Donny is afraid of taking on the name and losing. Needless to say, the climactic championship fight held at Liverpool's Goodison Park will prove, punch for punch, that Creed has his father's blood running through his veins.

Michael B. Jordan effectively shines as Apollo Creed's son, eager to build his own legacy. However, I was most impressed by Sylvester Stallone for what amounts to his best performance since the first installment of Rocky.  No longer with a loving wife and best friend Paulie by his side, their deaths have left him lonely and living one day at the time, either at the restaurant, visiting their graves or reading the newspaper.  That is until Donny shows up and injects new life into the worn and tired man, who as it turns out, is faced with his own personal fight.

For those who haven't seen Rocky and its follow up installments, Creed is essentially Rocky for a new generation, with similar plot elements kept in place.  For the most part, having been there and seen that already, there isn't much of anything new, or original to rave about, so I can't can't call this film a knockout.  I will leave it to new audiences to decide if the reboot really has what it takes to go the distance.

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