Gifted young writer / director Ryan Coogler scored big two years ago with his first picture, Fruitvale Station, and scores again with Creed, his homage to the spirit the Rocky film franchise embued, if not the movies themselves. Coogler has cast Fruitvale leading man Michael B. Jordan to tell the story of the illegitimate son of Rocky fixture world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed. Creed was Balboa's early opponent and later friend who died in the ring during a fight that Rocky wishes he had stopped as Creed's trainer. Jordan's character goes by Adonis Johnson, at once rejecting his father and desiring to embrace him by abandoning a respectable nine-to-five in a bank to train for the professional boxing ring. Johnson leaves the Los Angeles home of his adoptive mother, Mary Anne Creed, Apollo's wife (played by Phylicia Rashad), and moves to Philadelphia to learn from Rocky (Sylvester Stallone). Johnson keeps his parentage secret from everyone for a while, even the braided beauty (Tessa Thompson) in the apartment below his, whose brass turns him on. The two meet cute and their courtship is sweet and provides the film with some nice grace notes to offset the battering bluster in the bulk of the picture. The scenes between the craggy and inimitable Stallone and the truly adonic and chiseled Jordan drill deep into the heart of what this often savage sport means to those who are drawn to it and suffer from it. In that regard, the real beauty in this impressive movie is in the ring -- in the unsually intimate training sequences and, of course, the last reel bout between Adonis and the mouthy Liverpudlian boxing champ, "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). All of it's brutal and bloody and boffo. Highly Recommended.


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