Michael B. Jordan
reviewed by Tom-Tom
Like any great boxing move, the hit came when we weren’t expecting it. It came from outside our field of vision from a writer/director we had never heard of. It landed on our breastbone igniting all sorts of emotions old and new. Now, filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams have succeeded in doing this with the Star Trek and Star Wars series but not as beautifully as this. Creed is its own movie and Adonis his own character. While there are plenty of salutes in the directions of the previous 6 films, Creed doesn’t require any homework to enjoy although fans of the series will certainly appreciate the nods.
We begin in a juvenile corrections facility where young Adonis Johnson is fighting an older, taller, and stronger boy for insulting his dead mother. He is later visited by a very kind yet severe woman, who reveals herself to be Apollo Creed’s widow (the great Phylicia Rashad of The Cosby Show fame, the third actress to portray the role). Fast forwarding to the present, we see Michael B. Jordan as Adonis (Wallace from The Wire all grown up!) with a wonderfully muscular frame preparing for a boxing match in Mexico. Boxing, in this film is much like seeing Godzilla in the eponymous remake by Gareth Edwards, built up slowly with no jumping of the shark. Adonis, or Donnie as he prefers to be called, is unhappy in his high-paying albeit boring job. Seeing his toned muscles covered by a shirt and tie is almost hilarious.
He quits and heads to his birth father’s old gym in LA to begin his boxing career. He is somewhat shunned despite demonstrating quickness. Adonis is an interesting addition to the mythos begun with Rocky. He is raised with everything he could desire at his fingertips. He’s not hungry to rise above his circumstances, not from a socioeconomic stance, his own motivation is rather a guarded secret from everyone, perhaps even himself. He finds himself drawn to boxing in an almost predestined way. He refuses to take on the Creed name or let anyone know about it. All except one man. Three guesses who?
Rocky Balboa is aging while dutifully maintaining the restaurant “Adrian’s” as we saw him in Rocky Balboa. Paulie, his brother-in-law has passed away although the old boxer still visits them both in the cemetery reading the newspaper on a folding chair he keeps in the branches of an old tree. It is quite a touching scene. Enter Adonis who shares the secrets of his origins which jumpstarts the main storyline. Adonis is staying in an apartment below which is a young attractive musician Bianca (Tessa Thompson) with progressive hearing loss. Although she has quite the strong personality, this vulnerable part of her makes her as sympathetic and endearing a character as the soft-spoken and mousy Adrian, who worked in a pet store.
The boxing scenes in the film are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The camera is comfortably close, giving us a sense of involvement in the fight. In an early sparring session, when a fighter falls to the mat, the camera expertly falls with him. The hits land on actual body parts whether real or CGI rendered, I’m not sure. The action feels close but not shaky, a mistake made by many films attempting to portray a semblance of realism (cough, Cloverfield, cough). The journey of Adonis from amateur to professional boxer, his tear-jerking interactions with Rocky (Stallone giving perhaps the best performance of the series), his show stopping run accompanied by Philadelphia youths on ATV’s and motorbikes, provides such of the best in film of recent years. Even the rival fighter has a story and a mouth on him too. I finished Creed with tears in my eyes and a sense of satisfaction of having seen something beautiful and lasting. One of the best films of 2015.