CREED [Review]: Another Eye of the Tiger.

What’s up, good people of the good parish? It’s your boy, “The Belser”, once again returning to knock out the movie review competition.

Speaking of knockouts, tonight’s selection is the latest in the legendary’ Rocky series, Creed. If you know me, you know how much of a fan I am of Apollo Creed. In fact, when I first started acting, I wrote a comedic monologue about how Apollo Creed is the most important character in the series. It actually got me quite a few auditions. Plus, I usually refer to the actor that portrayed him (Carl Weathers) as “the greatest black action hero of this or any generation”. Yes, the love is deep, folks…

Now, when I heard they were doing a new Rocky movie based on Creed’s son, I was like “please don’t ruin this. We don’t need another Rocky V“. Thankfully my screening of the film was a pleasant surprise. Adonis Johnson (Fantastic Four‘s Michael B. Jordan) is the illegitimate son of former world champion Apollo Creed, the result of an affair the champ had prior to his untimely demise in Rocky IV. His birth mother passes; he’s placed in the foster care system for years; and knows very little about his famous father other than his great career and tragic death.

After a visit from Apollo’s widow Mary Anne Creed (The Cosby Shows‘s Phylicia Rashad), Adonis agrees to take part of her residence. Years pass and the young buck is starting to be consumed with an urge to get in the ring like his father. So much so, he quits his comfy life, fights in underground brawls and moves to Philly to convince Rocky Balboa (ay yo, Sylvester Stallone), Apollo’s greatest rival-turned-best friend, to train him. Rocky is initially hesitant due to his role in Apollo’s death, but the persistence of Adonis wins him over. At the same time, Adonis gets interested in his very pretty, musician neighbor Bianca (Selma‘s Tessa Thompson, the neighbor most men wished they had).

"Luke Cage" THIS.
“Luke Cage” THIS.

Between a growing relationship, Rocky’s declining health and a big time boxing match looming, Adonis aims to live up to the Creed legend while showing the world he’s his own man. Jordan more than makes up for that lackluster last film (not his fault, but you know!) in his portrayal of a kid with a permanent chip on his shoulder — far less irritating than any Human Torch. You can also feel his Adonis’ inner-struggles with many aspects of his life: the nature of birth, his temper, and his need to find his own identity while being in the shadow of a legendary father that he’s never known.

Newcomer Thompson really shines as Adonis’ love interest Bianca. I loved the idea of making her an aspiring Philly Neo-Soul singer. This look is completed with dreads, her sweet street swag and references to Philly artists that she admires like Jill Scott and The Roots. But not surprisingly, the real standout is old Rocky Balboa himself, Stallone. Keep in mind, this is a character he created and debuted to the world almost 40-years ago to the day. He’s played the character in six movies prior to Creed, and this might be his best legitimate acting performance in years. Stallone’s best Rocky since the original is an older, lonelier guy who essentially becomes the same father figure/trainer to Adonis that Mickey (Burgess Meredith) was to him. People tend to forget that Sly received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the first Rocky, and I will not be surprised if he earns a Best Supporting nod for Creed.

"I forgive you, 'Johnny'."
“I forgive you, ‘Johnny’.”

Creed‘s score thankfully doesn’t have any of the Scott Stapp-led post grunge of the same name. Rather, the movies throws out a mix of classic movie orchestration and modern hip-hop beats to reflect the same grit and grime of innercity Philly. There are a few musical nods to the classic Rocky tunes, including the “Gonna Fly Now” theme; but they give Adonis his own little joint and it’s quite triumphant.

Another hallmark of the Rocky series, of course, are the fights. In case you were keeping score at home, The Belser’s personal favorite Rocky brawl is the second Apollo vs. Rocky match in Rocky II. Creed‘s matches offer much of the same hard-hitting vibe, which should flinch the eyes of moviegoers–despite an overall lack of “epic-ness” from the originals. I loved the use of HBO SPORTS for the fight coverage, which gives it an added air of reality. As expected, the training montage is pretty dope as well.

Looks familiar.
Jordan reppin’ the Jumpman.

I’m glad to tell you as a lifelong Rocky fan that Creed truly exceeded my higher than high expectations. Rocky, in nature, is “Americana” as you get — imitated over and over — and they say over half the population in the world has seen at least one Rocky movie, especially during the regular rotation during certain holidays. Creed is a true Rocky spin-off, not a Rocky rip-off. And yet while it pays homage to the original flicks, it’s very much its own movie — and a damn good one at that.

Kudos to director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) for delivering a dope movie. Not only do I give this flick the Belser Seal of Approval, I will bestow my highest honor, The ALL-STAR (named after my favorite Smirk) upon it as a MUST-SEE. I’m even happier that this is the third black-oriented film I’ve given this award to in 2015, following Dope and Straight Outta Compton.

I like this trend. Let’s keep it coming, Black Hollywood.

4 (out of 5) Bibles.
4 (out of 5) Bibles.
JaDarrel "The Belser" @TheBelser
JaDarrel “The Belser”

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