The boxing genre as a whole can share a lot of the same stereotypes. A boxer who has no control that needs to find peace with himself or family in order to be successful, or even a scrappy boxer that has no training but an iron will that refuses to give up. These two examples in particular have led to some good movies in the past, but anytime a boxing movie has come out in the past few years it has felt a bit rehashed. Enter Creed, a spinoff or continuation if you will from the largely popular Rocky films that started the genre decades ago. Hearing about the film it is easy to surmise that it is simply going to be another run of the mill boxing mill but this time cashing in on the Rocky name. Much like Adonis Creed in this film, he is working to separate from that shadow and be successful on his own. Luckily for us all this film breathes new life into the genre and may just be one of the best films of the year thanks in large part due to a great script and powerful performances.
The plot follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as he is living in California trying to make it as a boxer. He refuses to use his last name as his father, Apollo, was a legend in the sport. Adonis feels if he uses his father's name then he will never make it on his merit and instead only be living in his shadow. However, in California, no trainer agrees to take him on even when he shows great raw talent despite never being taught his entire life. This forces him to move out to Philadelphia where he meets with his father's old friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky refuses at first due to how he has put distance between himself and the sport but Adonis is persistent leading Rocky to eventually agree. The two men begin to train but become more then boxer and trainer as the two have needed each other more then they could have possibly imagined.
Writer and Director Ryan Coogler did an fantastic job on the page as well as behind the camera on this film. Before he had worked with Jordan on the film Fruitvale Station and like that film this one was also very grounded in realism. The characters felt real and due to their performances as well as the dialogue it helped immensely. More so, you can at times forget that this is even a boxing film as the characters take the stage more then the sport. Both Creed and Rocky have arcs that are much bigger then the sport as they are more important to the man that both of them are. From a filming perspective, Coogler did a great job behind the camera in the quieter moments between characters and even in the ring. Frequently he would use point of view shots in the ring which helped immerse the viewer even more into the fight. Also, the sound in these fights were phenomenal between the roar of the crowd, the announcers and trainers on the side all of which helped make you feel as if you were a boxer in the ring.
Michael B. Jordan has been a star on the rise for some time now but this movie will put him even more out in the limelight. He shows great promise with his screen presence and charisma. His character in Adonis has an arc that if in lesser hands could have teetered of the edge to the point where the character is completely unredeemable and unlikable but due to his ability as an actor that never happens. His chemistry with Sylvester Stallone is another strong point to the film. Surprisingly enough as well Stallone delivers his best performance to date. Now, I know that isn't saying much as he has predominately done action films that doesn't call upon great acting. However, his character's arc is both deeply emotional and heart wrenching which he displays beautifully.