2 hours, 13 minutes
When Sylvester Stallone announced he was returning to the glory days of his youth with 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” I assumed it was just a cash grab, or at most, a way for a fading movie star to grab just a little of that old fame he once had. I had no real hopes for the movie. And then it was awesome. It was aching and sad, uplifting and revelatory. It was the best Rocky movie since “Rocky,” and that’s saying something.
Of course, Stallone quickly squandered that goodwill with the odious “Rambo,” and the idiotic “Expendables” movies, but for a minute there, I really liked him again.
This year he’s looking to get a little of that back with “Creed,” technically a spin-off, but really might as well be titled “Rocky 7.” Though he didn’t write or direct this entry, “Creed” is solid and entertaining, and might just give ol’ Rock another few rounds in the ring.
The film opens in juvenile hall with a young Adonis Johnson incarcerated and violent. But not a bad kid, just a fighter.
Johnson, who doesn’t know his more famous surname at this point, nevertheless bears the best and worst traits of his father, now thought to be one of the best boxers to have ever lived. Apollo Creed fought Rocky in the 1970s, trained him in the 80s, and died in the ring fighting the Russian monster Ivan Drago. He also had an affair not long before his death, and the result was Adonis.
Now, with little options outside a life of crime in front of him, Apollo’s widow finds Adonis, tells him the truth about his lineage, and brings him home to live in luxury. But still, even with the top notch education and eventual career in high finance, Adonis can’t run from his one true love and talent. After winning sixteen back-room Tijuana boxing bouts in a row, our hero decides to quit his job, move out of the mansion, and try to make it on his own.
Unable to find a trainer, however, he makes the logical choice for a movie like this. He looks up Rocky Balboa, now a quietly retired restaurant owner, and talks the Italian Stallion into training him, just as Apollo once did for him. When it’s discovered that Adonis is the son of Creed, a title shot opens up. But is the young boxer ready for the big time?
Much of the plot of “Creed” feels cribbed from the other “Rocky” movies. The redemption angle, the training montages, the need to prove something — “not to no one else! You only got to prove something to yourself!” — it’s all been done before.
That doesn’t make “Creed” a bad movie, just not a particularly creative one. If it sounds like I’m down on the film, however, I don’t mean to be. I very much enjoyed it and thought it represented itself very well among the pantheon of boxing movies. Is it going to win Best Picture? No, but it should make a respectable amount of money and may lead to a supporting nomination for Stallone, who plays Rock with a great amount of respect and care. You can really tell Stallone is affectionate toward this character, a feeling that must not extend to John Rambo, considering how awful the most recent sequel to that series was.
Young director Ryan Coogler, who most recently garnered attention for “Fruitvale Station,” also starring Michael B. Jordan, does a good job of staging the fights. They feel authentic, without ever getting boring, unlike real boxing matches — at least when watching them on TV.
Coogler also wrote the script which, despite being derivative, is nicely written without a lot of needless detours.
Jordan is a very good actor and proves it here. He has the potential to be the next Denzel Washington — he just needs a few more “Creeds” and a few less “Fantastic Fours.”
“Creed” is basic, simple, and heartwarming — really all you could ask for from a “Rocky” movie.
“Creed” is rated PG-13 for language, boxing violence, and adult situations.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.