Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
A group of boys gather around a couple of youngsters inside a juvenile facility. Suddenly the one surrounded takes charge, dropping his tormentor with one punch. You have to admit…the kids got it. So did his dad.
“Creed” tells the story of the son of the late Apollo Creed, who audiences last saw dying in the arms of Rocky Balboa after taking on the Russian boxing champion in “Rocky IV.” The young man with the lethal fists is one Adonis Johnson, who has been bouncing from juvie hall to foster home on and off since his mother died. Adonis has no idea who his father is until, shortly after his latest incident, he is introduced to Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), the widow of the former champ. She takes the young man in and encourages him to make something of himself.
When we meet the adult Adonis (Jordan), he is a successful young man who secretly boxes in Mexico. He is confident in his talents. So confident that, despite a recent promotion, he quits his job and heads to Philadelphia, intent on having a certain ex-boxer train him. That boxer is Rocky Balboa (Stallone). Rocky wants nothing to do with the young man, but we’re not sure if it’s because he’s genuinely not interested or if he harbors some guilt over the death of Apollo. Eventually the two get together and Adonis begins to make a name for himself. He also finds a girlfriend in upstairs neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring musician.
Things go well for all concerned until it is discovered who Adonis’ father really is. He is offered a shot at the title, but only if he fights under the name Creed. The fight is set. The bell has rung. Will he go the distance?
Fans of the “Rocky” series will embrace this film as a natural fit in the saga. There are enough references to previous films to make it so. However, even if you’ve never seen any of the previous films, you will find “Creed” entertaining, in part thanks to the great chemistry between Jordan and Stallone. As the story progresses both men learn more about each other, setting the scene for some emotional revelations. I’m not afraid to say that Stallone could earn some award consideration for his work here. Jordan, who was so good in his previous film with director Coogler, “Fruitvale Station,” has just the right swagger to keep you rooting for Adonis, no matter what the circumstances.
Technically the film is especially strong. Early fights are filmed without an edit – a single camera surrounds the fighters in the ring, giving the audience a unique look from inside the square circle. Coogler’s script borrows a little bit from the original “Rocky” (champ’s opponent can’t fight so a gimmick is used to set up the match, Rocky spouts some profound words of wisdom), but it mostly stands alone as an original story.
Whether you look at it as a continuation of the “Rocky” saga or take it in as a stand-alone film, “Creed” is a crowd pleaser!