I’m going to be totally transparent. I remember very little from the Rocky films, except for the most recent one that came out a few years ago. So I didn’t go into this as a huge fan of the franchise. Was I able to leave a convert to the series?
In Rocky IV, the boxer Apollo Creed is killed in the ring by a Russian boxer. His friend and competitor Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) gets revenge. That was 20-something years ago. Now, we meet Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) who never got to meet his father Apollo but is following in his footsteps. He was never trained to be a boxer though, so he goes to Philadelphia where he convinces Rocky to teach him how to really box. We also have Tessa Thompson as the potential love interest, actual boxer Tony Bellew as the current champion “Pretty Ricky” Conlan, and Phylicia Rashad as Apollo Creed’s widow.
This movie is absolutely fantastic. Michael B. Jordan, if you haven’t realized this already, is a star and his performance here is impeccable. He pulled it off physically as well, in some long one-shot takes that took some extreme choreography. I was impressed with how much actual boxing he managed to do. He also pulled off some emotional moments as well, as Adonis struggled to come to grips with living in his father’s shadow while never actually getting to meet him. Some great and nuanced moments.
The real surprise here though is Sylvester Stallone, who gives undoubtedly his best performance in years. He’s not trying to be the tough guy anymore, like The Expendables, but instead he plays into the man that’s been broken and defeated and doesn’t know if he can handle one more fight, so he refuses to. His performance had me in tears at a few moments, which I never expected.
This movie had impeccable balance. The emotional beats were perfect but it’s the intense boxing matches that leave you sitting on the edge of your seat. There’s a handful of fights but only two big ones that serve as milestones for Adonis. I forgot to breathe. Part of it was the exceptional choreography and editing that tricked you into thinking it never cut. And maybe sometimes it didn’t. It’s nonstop, it’s visceral, and it’s sometimes hard to watch. But it all pays off beautifully.
I also usually don’t mention this but the music was fantastic as well. When the opening title came up, the swell that sounded with it gave me goosebumps. Overall just fantastic work with the sound.
What didn’t work?
I’m not really a fan of Tessa Thompson (Selma) and this movie didn’t convince me either. The whole romantic subplot really felt out of place in general and the movie felt like it lasted a little too long because of it.
Creed is absolutely phenomenal. Its balance of great emotional work and then spectacular action sequences is breathtaking. Both Jordan and Stallone deliver incredible performances and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Best Supporting Actor nod for Stallone. It’s a no-brainer that you should see Creed in theaters, you absolutely won’t be disappointed.