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Emotionally Powerful ‘Creed’ Is One of Year’s Best

Creed_posterIt’s OK, Michael B. Jordan. All is forgiven for “Fantastic Four.”

“Creed” is the seventh installment in the “Rocky” franchise and the first since 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” The film follows Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son (Jordan) as he attempts to come out of the shadow his father left behind. In order to be taken seriously as a boxer, he reaches out to the retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Ryan Coogler directs and co-writes.

Michael B. Jordan was put on mainstream Hollywood’s radar after 2012’s found footage superhero film “Chronicle,” however it was the following year’s “Fruitvale Station” (directed and written by Coogler as well) that made everyone start to see him as a possible star. “Creed” finds both Jordan and Coogler at the top of their game, and shows why Stallone and the studio made the right choice putting their faith in two under-30 guys to continue a historic franchise.

I liked how “Creed” isn’t a full-blown “Rocky” sequel, nor does it try to be. As a person who doesn’t know much about the series outside the major cliffnotes, it was important that I could relate to and understand what was happening throughout the film. I’m sure I missed a callback here or inside joke there, but I knew the characters and motivations without the film spoon feeding them to me.

The film is shot masterfully, with numerous long takes. There is even a fight in the middle of the film that is one single take, and it’s amazing. Being one take adds immense tension to the scene, as there aren’t cuts to give us a chance to breath and relax. Coogler and his team deserve massive props for pulling this off, because people get cut and bloody but there aren’t chances for makeup teams to have applied it. Movie magic, I suppose.

The film uses hip hop for much of the backdrop, which gives the film a unique and “modern” feel compared to the other “Rocky” films, however still has some nice instrumental moments, including the famous theme (even if it initially feels a bit cheesy for its cliché timing).

The film flows at a nice pace for most of the time, although it does slow a little when Creed is preparing for the big final fight. The film also decides to add a dramatic twist to the story, which definitely feels a little forced and formulaic however does give Stallone the opportunity to deliver a nice speech (possibly his “For Your Consideration” moment for the Academy?).

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little choked up during the climax, which features both powerful bits of dialogue as well as an engaging fight. “Creed” works as both a standalone and a revival to a franchise that many thought had its best days behind it. It is one of the year’s best films and a star-confirming vehicle for Michael B. Jordan, and also shows that maybe Stallone still has more to offer than cheesy “Expendable” action flicks.

Critics Rating: 8/10