Time Out says
Sylvester Stallone returns to his signature role but lets a new generation step up, in an emotional heavyweight that brings honor to the Rocky series.
More a core part of modern-day myth than film history, the Rocky series has morphed into something sweaty and slightly embarrassing: an endless series of wisdom grunts, anthemic trumpet fanfares, politically symbolic opponents and Reagan-era showdowns. Lost in all of this was a little film called Rocky (1976), closer in spirit to the palooka redemption quests of On the Waterfront and Raging Bull, and filled with the kind of street poetry that mainstream audiences used to have plenty of patience for.
Creed, the commandingly rousing new entry, is the best thing that could have happened to Philly’s favorite son—even if that means demoting the poor guy to the coaching corner. If the film feels indieish, that’s because it basically is one: Director Ryan Coogler has but a single feature to his name—2013’s socially enraged Fruitvale Station. But like many rising young directors of his generation (e.g. Star Wars rebooter J.J. Abrams), Coogler carries around the little-boy version of himself, a kid at heart whose dreams have been colonized by the ’70s blockbusters.
Creed is a glorious literalization of that nostalgia. It’s about a troubled inner-city youth turned seething young man, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, the fiercely alive lead from Fruitvale Station), who knows his impulse to fight comes from his out-of-wedlock father, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before they ever met. Will he rise to claim his natural legacy? It’s a neat reversal from Sylvester Stallone’s original idea in the first movie, that your two-bit surroundings don’t define who you are. Adonis heads from Los Angeles to the City of Brotherly Love, where he chases chickens, meets a tough but supportive female dreamer (Tessa Thompson) and has a rendezvous with the only man who can train him properly.
Of Stallone’s surprisingly tender performance—a definitive late-career triumph—enough can’t be said. He stares skyward when someone mentions the Cloud, reads the paper at grave sites and lives in memories. But Adonis brings back the fight in him. Stallone has not only taken a risk on Coogler but submitted to a personal sea change. And when those trumpets do blare, a new actor emerges.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew
Michael B. Jordan