Review by Andrew L. Urban:
All the key elements of a boxing film are present and accounted for in Creed: the young wannabe who never met his father; the old timer champ recruited to train the youngster; the beautiful young woman he falls for; the toughest opponent in the world … and the life changing fight.
Each of these elements are neatly massaged into if not a unique film, at least one that is engaging and more complex than a plain genre menu. Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his father Apollo, because Apollo died before Adonis was born. In the day, Apollo was the rival of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who now runs the Adrian restaurant in Philly. Adonis (Don or Donnie to his friends) looks him up to talk him into training him. He wants to follow in his daddy’s glovemarks.
Rocky reluctantly but amiably agrees – and the journey (with lots of training) begins. When Adonis moves in to an apartment in Philly, it’s above the flat where Bianca (Tessa Thompson) lives – and where she listens to loud music, she being a budding singer. He goes to complain one middle of the night, they connect … and the romance begins.
These two journeys – boxing and romance – are the main attraction, but minor strands also develop, to fill out the picture, as it were. Along the way, we get a few wry laughs and the inevitable musical sting that is unforgettably Rocky’s theme.
Performances are excellent, with Stallone playing ‘old’ in grand style, Jordan full of the conflicted vitality that distinguishes his character, Thompson delightful and Phylicia Rashad memorable as Mary Anne Creed, the late Apollo’s wife. Also noteworthy are Tony Bellew as the swaggering world champion ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, destined to meet Jordan in the superbly staged, adrenaline-charged climactic fight, and Graham McTavish as Tommy Holiday, Conlan’s trainer.
Neither fans nor those new to the Rocky legend will be disappointed with what writer director Ryan Cooglar has done with Stallone’s characters in what is probably his last appearance.