Creed — 7/10

CREED (2015, Ryan Coogler)

CREED is a film about the offspring of a given sport’s greatest athlete who wants to avoid sharing that superstar’s name. This character is played by an actor named Michael Jordan.

I wonder if that irony was in Coogler’s head when he cast his FRUITVALE STATION star Jordan in this seventh Rocky movie. Whether or not it was, the script still can’t really come up with a lot of interesting places to take the struggle between Adonis’s loyalty to his father and his desire to make a name for himself. As much as Coogler leans on this theme, the prospect of whether Adonis will fight as Creed or “Johnson” doesn’t carry a lot of dramatic weight.

What does carry weight is Adonis’s relationship with Rocky, and thanks to the chemistry Stallone and Jordan have, those sequences are quite good. Even when the formula is stale enough that we can predict not only each plot development but some exact lines, the drama just works. Coogler knows where to place the camera, when to cut, and when not to cut. He shows off in two fight setpieces, which happen to be the film’s best sequences overall. One is an unbroken, Lubezki-esque long take that glides like a floating boxer. The other is a bloody, jagged piece of filmmaking that favors low-angle shots, putting the canvas and ropes in between the lens and the actors.

All the beats you’ve come to expect from a Rocky movie are here, and Stallone gets to deliver some hoary old man jokes (yes, screenwriters are still making jokes about “the cloud” believe it or not). The requisite love interest subplot delivers the expected goods pretty well. It’s nice to see Hollywood fire on all cylinders when it’s feeding you processed hamburgers, and as tasty as CREED is, it’s still a hamburger.

Note: Am I the only one bothered when filmmakers completely ignore time zones? The climactic fight takes place in England, but Adonis’s mother is watching it in Los Angeles and it’s night time there. 

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