by Wilson Morales
Who could have imagine that the Rocky franchise will continue nearly 40 years after the first film? It’s been nine years since the last film ‘Rocky Balboa’ left the screen, and by most accounts, it was supposed to be the end. With the film receiving positive reviews and performing well at the box office, Sylvester Stallone was able to walk away on a high note. As in sports, if there’s an ounce of energy to play again, do it until the tank is empty.
With “Creed,” Ryan Coogler’s spinoff film and the 7th in the series, Stallone is not only giving his best performance to since ‘Rocky,’ but Michael B. Jordan has fully established himself as a leading man to be reckoned with. The torch has been successfully been carried as the film is an entertaining crowd pleaser that delivers on the hype audiences expected from the series.
Beginning in 1998, we sees a young, but troubled Adonis Johnson, being released from a juvenile detention center to the wife (Phylicia Rashad) of the deceased Apollo Creed. Seems that she knows Adonis is Apollo’s illegitimate son from an extramarital affair, and with Adonis’s mother also deceased, she wants the young lad to live with her.
Living in the wealthy neighborhood of Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles wasn’t enough for Adonis to find his calling. He goes across the border in Mexico to partake in unofficial boxing matches. Feeling the need to find his identity, he quits his business job and heads to Philadelphia to be a professional boxer. While there, he searches for the one man who could be of great assistance, Rocky (Stallone).
With his immediate family either dead or not around, Rocky is resigned to just being a restaurant owner and when Adonis comes in and wants him to train him, he’s even more reluctant to getting back in the ring, in any capacity. Seeing his determination and knowing his father, there’s something about Adonis that reminds Rocky of his young self and he agrees to train him. Meanwhile, Adonis is getting settled being in Philly with the help of his neighbor and musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson), who’s also going through problems of her own.
When word gets around that Adonis is the son of a boxing legend, British lightweight champ Ricky Conlan wants to give the unranked kid at shot at the title only because the media exposure would bring in enough cash for him to support his family before he’s set to retire. For Adonis, it’s now or never to prove he’s his father’s son, and with Rocky going through health issues, the two must overcome the odds to prevail the impossible.
This is the first film that doesn’t have “Rocky” in the title and that Stallone did not co-write, and with Coogler being a lifelong Rocky fan, he and co-writer Aaron Covington given Stallone his best acting role to date. There are several layers to the character that Stallone was able to reach without going over the top or underperforming. Having worked on Fruitvale Station with Coogler, Jordan knows his directing style and was able to deliver a performance that’s hard to pull off. As with the previous Rocky films, we expect the boxing matches, and the training sequences, but at the same time, we the audience have to care about the guy and with Adonis, we see someone that can actually make an impact after he’s found his calling and Jordan brings in the depth that shows it.