By Jack Rico
The 1-4-0: #Creed is arguably top 3 amongst the best Rocky films. It plays up the nostalgia while keeping it contemporary. An honest crowd-pleasing experience that will choke up the machoest of men.
The Gist: Rocky is brought back to the ring, but this time as a trainer as he takes under his wing Apollo Creed’s son.
What Works: To bring back Sylvester Stallone in another Rocky movie was going to be a difficult challenge. You were going to have to bring him a story where he didn’t have to embarrass or compromise the legacy of his character (meaning the audience won’t feel like the character sold his soul for a lousy buck) and director/writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) did just that. From returning back to the city where it all began in Philadelphia, to getting a peak at where Balboa would be in present-time (meaning not fighting in the ring) to the usage of the original Bill Conti film score – Coogler gave ‘Rocky’ new purpose, one that is believable and evocative. He hit the right tones between nostalgia and forging its own modern-day identity that should be appealing to audiences of all ages.
The plot line of Creed is VERY similar to the original ‘Rocky’ – a kid who’s biggest talent is fighting, gets a shot at the heavyweight title through promotional serendipitous circumstances (being at the right place at the right time). With his girl at his side and his father figure trainer on the other, can Creed beat the heavyweight champ while never having had a real professional fight? Stallone, who has been with Rocky through the thick and thin for four decades, gives a performance full of shades and nuances that only the hues of time can provide. I’m not sure if it is an Oscar nominee performance, but Stallone can’t do better that what he left on screen. Nevertheless, I hope he is recognized because it would bring Stallone and Rocky full circle. Remember, 1976’s Rocky was nominated for ten Oscars and won three, including Best Picture.
What Doesn’t Work: As much as Michael B. Jordan is the titular character in this new take on the Rocky franchise, this is Stallone’s film and the audience will confirm that at the box office when it premieres. Jordan along with the rest of the cast play back-up to Stallone in an indirect way. We’re here to see ‘Rocky,’ the rest is the cherry on top.
Pay or Nay: Pay and pay twice. Even though Coogler might deny it, Creed is a re-envisioning of the original Rocky movie. It possesses all the old school traits with a new-school bravado that will appeal to cross-generational audiences which is almost impossible to do. Ask Schwarzennegger. As good as Jake Gyllenhaal was in Southpaw, this year’s other boxing movie, his gritty performance was attached to a film filled with genre clichés. Creed has a bit less grit and possesses a more romanticized aura where “boxing” doesn’t drive the story, but where the characters griefs and victories somehow become part of our own. This is one to enjoy, so go ahead and feel free to scream ‘Woooo,” off the top of your lungs, bop your head to the cool soundtrack and shed a tear or two in what could be Rocky’s final round on screen.