by Patrick B. McGuigan
The saturation television advertising campaign has a point – ‘Creed’ really is one of the best motion pictures of 2015.
Well-written, skillfully performed and memorably scored, this is a great flick for those who can stand the realistic portrayal of the violent core of the sport.
The film has the pounding boxing violence of the original ‘Rocky’ film, and a spirit close to that mega-hit of 1976, the American Bicentennial year.
Director Ryan Coogler, also the writer, builds on the “new” Rocky traditions established in what many thought was the last in the series, “Rocky Balboa” (2006).
Coogler takes his time with the story, making us care about Adonis Johnston-Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the born-out-of-wedlock son of Apollo, Rocky’s one-time rival, and eventually close friend. Frankly, the steady pace of the movie, unhurried until the furious fighting finale, is one of its greatest assets.
Bianca, portrayed by a profoundly sympathetic Tessa Thompson, is an aspiring-star young singer who is drawn to Adonis. Thompson, a veteran of the “Selma” movie, shines in her time on the screen.
Phyliccia Rashad portrays, Apollo’s widow, who took in a young Adonis, raising her as her own child. She is authentic and as beautiful as ever in her memorable cameos.
Tony Bellow, a real-life boxer, is perfectly cast as Creed’s eventual rival. Andre Ward, another fighter, also appears. Both acquit themselves well.
In training scenes Adonis and other principals, young boxers (including a woman) provide support to the story line. A variety of seasoned vets of the fight game and of Hollywood pop up in supporting roles, and there is not a false note among them. If Academy Awards could be given for ensembles, this group would be worthy.
The cinematography of Maryse Alberti is magnificent, and should be a contender for professional awards and recognition.
As Rocky – an extension of himself – Sylvester Stallone uses his veteran skills to great effect. Even at his advanced age, he can pack a punch, both on the screen and in his subdued portrayal as a aging legend.
The Philadelphia setting for much of the story is superb.
Adonis, the Los Angeles native, is believable as he leaves behind a troubled youth, and privileged young adulthood. He settles in the city of brotherly love. There he slowly bonds with dirt-bike riding youths in a series of memorable scenes.
Philadelphia itself is a star in scenes on those memorable steps leading to the Museum of Art.