Creed

December 14, 2015 at 10:43 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Anyone at all familiar with the previous 6 movies in the “Rocky” franchise, would find nothing surprising in this one at all.  In fact, even if you had never heard of Rocky Balboa, you could likely predict most of where this film is going. However, what is surprising, is how remarkably fresh it all feels. Though, it is wrought with heavy references to every single one of the previous films (particularly the first one), it still has an energy that feels very much like it’s a story of the moment. That is partly a credit to the universality of Sylvester Stallone’s original script and partly due to a powerful performance by Michael B. Jordan (“Friday Night Lights,” “Fantastic Four”). Jordan may well be the best male actor in his age range (acknowledging the likes of Miles Teller, Dane Dehaan and Ezra Miller). Anyone who saw “Fruitvale Station” realizes how raw and honest his performances can be. Here, he is somewhat constrained by the contrivances of the script, but Jordan bursts with a ferocity and vulnerability that has not been seen since the original “Rocky” film. He is especially real (and touching) in his relationship with the aging Rocky (now so like the Burgess Meredith character that it’s bittersweet nostalgia). It’s so clear how well Stallone knows Rocky; this is his defining role and he loves this character the way one loves family. All of Stallone’s awareness of his own aging plays out in Rocky. This is a tired and lonely and vulnerable man. Seeing what the “Italian Stallion” has become is touching and real and one of the best parts of this film. It’s hard not to get drawn into the relationship between these two men, both so guarded but needing each other. It’s that story that gives the film depth and that provides the sort of character development that ultimately allows the audience to care about Adonis Creed when he steps into the ring. That final battle is a glory to behold and a reflection of modern film making at its kinetic best. But it’s Jordan’s visceral performance, both in the ring and before, that sells it. We may know exactly where it’s going but I challenge you to not care how it gets there.

 

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