Creed: The story continues 40 years later

DWIGHT BROWN | 12/7/2015, 9:31 a.m.
“Why would you pick a fighter’s life if you didn’t have to,” asks the old, retired ex-boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester ...
Michael B. Jordan stars in Creed. Warner Bros.

Adonis struggles. The elder Balboa faces health issues. Bianca has her own challenges. They are misfits, imperfect people. You stay glued to their personal dramas. That’s the mark of intuitive screenwriting. As you get more and more involved with the characters, the charm of this movie sneaks up on you like a left hook.

Coogler knows how to get great performances out of Jordan. Jordan, an accomplished young actor, knows how to give the director every emotion he seeks. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Joy. You never question Adonis’ feelings. They are authentic. Plus Jordan has chiseled his body into a cut, muscular physique. He looks like an explosive boxer. Thompson as Bianca, the angel who pulls Adonis through to the other side, is vibrant, urban, hip and sweet. Conversely, Bellew, as the flippant Conlan, is as beastly as Mike Tyson just before he bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.

The big surprise is that Stallone gives the most compelling and truthful performance of his career. Nothing over the top. Nothing unbelievable. Balboa has lost a couple of steps; his energy is low. He’s a senior citizen trying to get by, living vaguely off the past. No wife. Few friends. No glory. He’s wrinkled. His hair is gray. He has given in to old age. This is a marked departure from the eternally young-looking Stallone you see on the red carpet, a diehard who looks like he’s chasing his youth. Now, he’s stripped down and raw, like Mickey Rourke was as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler. Stallone deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ditto Jordan for Best Actor.

Credit director of photography Maryse Alberti (The Wrestler), production designer Hannah Beachler, and costume designers Emma Potter and Antoinette Messam for making the visuals look simple and blue collar. Editors Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello cut the fat and leave the lean.

When you step into the theater to watch this boxing movie, don’t look for Rocky. Yes, you’ll see and feel remnants of that spirit. But Creed is its own story; its own franchise. It’s the rebellious son that wandered out on its own. For that reason, baby boomers and millennials will dig it.