Friday, November 27, 2015

Creed - Movie Review

Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), continues the story of fictional boxing champion Rocky Balboa made famous by Sylvester Stallone. The movie stars Michael B. Anthony in the title role as well as Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Graham McTavish, Malik Bazille, and Wood Harris.

The Story:
From his days bouncing around group homes and juvenile detention centers, Adonis Johnson (Jordan) has literally been a fighter although it's not until a woman named Mary Anne Creed (Rashad), the widow of championship boxer Apollo Creed, takes him in and reveals to him where he truly comes from. As the young man struggles with the demons of his past, he turns to professional boxing as an outlet and looks to the one and only Rocky Balboa (Stallone) for help with his training. While Rocky has moved from his boxing days and on to a simpler life, he sees something in the kid and decides to help him in his quest to get out from under his father's shadow.

The Review:
Ryan Coogler has only two feature films under his belt although he is quickly proving to be one of the most talented directors working today. The dramatic style and intimate film making techniques that worked so well for him with Fruitvale Station are also very effective in telling the story of a young man entering a world we, as fans of the franchise, already know really well. Visually, this may be some of the best boxing ever put on film as it gives a more realistic spin on the sport while still staying true to the in your face, punches flying everywhere style we have loved to watch over the years.

There is a lot going on in this film and Coogler balances it all out quite nicely. We get to see Adonis grow from a rough and rugged kid to a young man learning to deal with the realities of family, relationships, and public perception. Meanwhile, Coogler brilliantly shows us a Rocky Balboa who has come to terms with his life and legacy yet is also bitter about the things that have been taken away from him over the years. The two characters couldn't be more different yet there are also some fundamental similarities and it's the boxing ring that ends up helping them to find a common ground to work with. Showing Creed and Balboa getting to know and learning from each other is a great way to transition the series and, if they want to move forward with the series in this way, I would be more than happy to watch the pair trade jabs as trainer and student for as long as they want to put them on screen.

While most of the films in this series could and should be considered big, blockbuster features, Creed has more of an indie feel to it much like the very first Rocky film had. Coogler puts you right into the heart of Philadelphia with the actors and you can almost feel, smell, and taste everything right along with them. His camera techniques keep things very intimate and raw while still maintaining a cinematic quality rather than making it look like a documentary which works perfectly for this film. As I mentioned earlier, the way he films the boxing scenes is very unique and he does a great job of letting each match tell it's own story. You can really feel the ebb and flow of each fight, when one boxer is gaining the upper hand over the other and, when a big punch lands, you feel it just as much as the fighter does (not literally but you get the idea).

The Verdict:
Creed is championship caliber film making and also weighs in as a very strong contender within one of the most popular and loved franchises of the last 40 years. Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson all give knockout performances and I would love to see the three of them, along with director Ryan Coogler, step back into the ring for more of the hard hitting story telling that was on display in this film.


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