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Movie Review: Creed
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Creed
Director: Ryan Coogler
Screenwriter: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashād, Tony Bellew, Wood Harris, Gabriel Rosado, Andre Ward
MGM | Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 |133 Minutes
Release Date: November 25, 2015

A great fighter once said, “It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Creed stars Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Fantastic Four) as Adonis Johnson, the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed – Carl Weathers’ fleet-footed fighter from the Rocky franchise.

The product of an extramarital affair, Adonis never knew his famous father, who died in the ring during a bout with Ivan Drago in 1985’s Rocky IV. After losing his mother, Adonis grew up in foster homes before his penchant for fighting landed him in juvenile detention. Adonis gets a second chance in Creed’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashād), who takes the boy in.

While boxing is in his blood, Adonis is determined to make a name for himself. He leaves the comfort of the Creed mansion in Los Angeles and heads for Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He tracks down “The Italian Stallion” and recruits the grizzled veteran as his trainer.

Creed explores a new chapter in the Rocky story, a sequel that also serves as a spin-off, re-envisioning the ultimate underdog story for a new generation. With Rocky in his corner, it isn’t long before Adonis gets a shot at the champ, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew). Will he earn his father’s legacy, or will Adonis turn out to be a “false Creed”?

Coogler and director of photography Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler) have crafted a vibrant and inspiring film with great performances from Jordan, Stallone, and Tessa Thompson (Selma, Dear White People), who plays Bianca, a Philly singer-songwriter who becomes involved with Adonis.

There’s something about these films that resonates with audiences. As absurd as the Rocky franchise is at times, these movies continue to connect with people – action fans, sports fans, hopeless romantics, classic film buffs – there’s something for everyone. Creed channels that emotional energy and steers the franchise in interesting new directions while staying true to its roots.

Coogler and his cast have delivered a crowd-pleasing film that packs an emotional punch. There’s a weight to the characters, new and old. Adonis is no doubt his father’s son, but he’s just as much an underdog as Rocky was back in the day. He’s from the streets, a fighter – a survivor – and he’s terrified that, if he uses his father’s name, he won’t live up to it.

Rocky, meanwhile, is fighting the toughest battle of his life – mortality. It’s amazing what Stallone has been able to do with this character in recent years, from 2006’s Rocky Balboa to his career-best supporting role in Coogler’s film. After retiring from the fight game, Rocky has evolved into Burgess Meredith’s Mickey character, complete with ill-fitting knit cap. Creed is the passing of the torch, and Stallone goes out on a triumphant high note here.

Creed is not only a great movie, it’s one of the year’s best. It’s emotionally engaging and entirely satisfying, the perfect vessel for cinematic catharsis. A modern-day underdog story, Creed is a reminder of how strong the human spirit can be when we have something to fight for.

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