“Time takes everyone out. It’s undefeated.”

Fruitvale Station writer/director Ryan Coogler has re-teamed with actor Michael B. Jordan for a surprising but welcoming second feature. Creed is a spin-off of the famous Rocky boxing movies once again starring the now sixty-nine year-old Sylvester Stallone—this time as a supporting character in the “Mickey” trainer role—alongside Jordan playing the talented but very troubled, illegitimate, and previously unseen son of Apollo (Carl Weathers), Adonis “Donnie” Johnson.

For Rocky fans, Creed has all the familiar elements without becoming a complete rehash. It uses nostalgia and a very contemporary setting to please and delight our senses. Coogler’s behind the camera instincts are on point with many memorable, but not too showy, long takes from cinematographer Maryse Alberti giving you insight into the boxer’s psyche. This nowhere more evident than seen during the first professional boxing match midway through and filmed in one continuous, breathtaking shot.

The film, neither a remake or reboot, really elevates the Rocky mythology and treats the previous six films—aside from maybe the dreadful Rocky V—and builds on it. I was near tears on three separate occasions from witnessing low key but powerfully gripping performances from Stallone and Jordan who share a complicated yet satisfying relationship on screen. The veteran Stallone, also a producer but free from writing or directing duties, really shines and shows all his reverence for his trademark character with some heartwrenching, impassioned yet naturalistic speeches about love and loss. It’s a comeback performance for the ages likely to give him a renewed interest and possibly some serious awards buzz.

Jordan’s earnest portrayal of an orphan, struggling with class and legacy, while simultaneously making his own name in the shadow of a father he never knew is both soft yet harsh in a wholly captivating performance that really reaches that sweet spot meeting the levels of the first Rocky. Donnie’s background juxtaposed with Rocky Balboa’s Philadelphia roots has the same structure but a completely unique journey as it highlights the city’s now dominant African-American population implicitly and in a loving light. Jordan’s chemistry with his love interest, an experimental musician played by a charismatic Tessa Thompson, is thoughtful as she plays woman forging her own path.

The very heartfelt Creed not only lives up to the Rocky franchise as a more than worthy successor, but establishes its own contemporary take on the classic boxer’s tale. Jordan And Stallone make for a compelling duo in and outside of the ring as Coogler’s confident, technically dazzling direction lifts the well worn story to familiar but very pleasing heights. Creed wins and wins big by way of a knockout as a both a superb Rocky film and an even better boxing film on its own.


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This is an excerpt from the article REVIEW | Michael B. Jordan Flies High – 'Creed' Wins which originally appeared on http://www.rickchung.com/.