Movie Review: ‘CREED’ – Stings Like A Bee

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

CREED | 132 min | PG-13
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tessa Thompson

We all know the rote formula of boxing films, and CREED doesn’t push those boundaries much. An underdog wants a name for himself, undergoes training montages, pays lip service to a throwaway love story and enters one big bout to reach the top. However, every now and then a sports film finds that sweet spot of balancing both action and drama. Once in awhile, the fights in a film are justified with stories full of enough crushing emotion that they become all the more intense and gratifying. CREED is that film.

Extending the highly regarded ROCKY franchise into a spin-off involving the previously unseen son (Michael B. Jordan) of Apollo Creed is more than enough reason to believe these films are running out of punches, especially nine years after Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed the capper (ROCKY BALBOA) to the uneven series.

Yet CREED is the first of the series since ROCKY III to feel more like a successor than a clone. It shows confidence and potential, even in the opening shot as the camera travels a juvenile detention hall into the room where a young Adonis Creed learns that he is the son of the late Apollo, who was killed in a boxing match. It’s a scene that sets the tone for the whole movie, letting audiences know they are in for something with more quality and less cheese.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

That’s not to say the film is entirely dairy-free. Such out of place elements like the love story between Creed and neighbor girl Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are still around and better suited for its own different film. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION) attempts to appeal to the female demographic by writing a love interest with more character than most sports films, but it clashes with the more interesting dynamic between Creed and Mr. Balboa himself (an Oscar-worthy Stallone).

It’s the fights and Stallone’s scenes that rise to the occasion. Now that he’s wearing an extra decade since we last saw him, Stallone’s seventh outing as Rocky makes for a wise mentor who’s reluctant to get back in the game. This is, of course, followed by the expected series of scenes involving doubt, training and cocky champions.

While the film seems to resemble typical fare, the conflict between these two men of who’s fighting for whom clears the smoke. In the end, it’s the audience who wins. CREED is an engaging presentation of an adrenaline-pumping, powerful tale loaded with grit and determination.

Grade: B

CREED opens tonight.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.