creed review

 

It’s Not About the Fight…

 
Creed has everything you know you want. It has training montages and visceral boxing matches and stirring moments that get the heart thumping and the tears welling. However, at its heart, the movie is literally about everything else.

It is a character-driven examination of Adonis Johnson, an amateur boxer who gives up a life of wealth and comfort so he can confront his inner demons. But it is also about how he finds family in the man who called his father a friend. It’s about how he meets an extraordinary woman who pushes him to be better man. It’s about how a young man learns that he’s never going to escape the shadow that he lives in, so he he must learn how to make it his home.

Above all, it’s a movie that’s about never giving up a fight, never surrendering, and never settling. Adonis could have coasted through life. Rocky could have lived out his remaining years until he passed away. But they meet and they inspire one another and change each other’s lives. Creed is a movie about your two families: the one created you and the one you build.

It all leads to boxing in the end, sure, but the journey is universal.

Coogler places these themes in a recognizable Philadelphia. Not since the first movie has the city felt so important to the fabric the film. You can feel the chill in the air, smell the cheesesteaks cooking, and appreciate the city at its best and its worst. The naturalism that made Fruitvale Station so powerful is present here. You are defined by where you put up stakes and Rocky is Philadelphia – down on its luck and imperfect, but never truly down for the count.

And most importantly, Coogler never forgets the race of his characters. It’s refreshing to see a major movie like this, the spin-off from a major franchise, not shy away from having a cast that is predominately black. The world sees Adonis and Bianca differently. The world they inhabit is right next door to Rocky’s world, but it couldn’t be more different. Creed embraces its characters’ culture and makes it a part of who they are without making a huge deal out of it. It’s quietly remarkable, and yet another choice that gives texture to a film that could have easily coasted.

… But That Fight Actually Means Something

 
It may not be about that fighting, but Creed delivers the goods on every bout. Coogler puts his camera in the ring, keeping the combatants in close-up while never losing sight of the fight choreography itself. These bouts may never reach Raging Bull levels of pain and anguish, but you do feel every punch. For the first time in several movies, boxing looks like it actually hurts.

Coogler and his cinematographer, Maryse Alberti, use the fights to showcase some bravura filmmaking. One match is shot entirely in one long shot, selling just how fast and brutal the entire experience is without ever feeling flashy. Other matches are more nuanced in their presentation, as flashbacks and even the occasional vision invade reality to drive something home. These scenes aren’t just guys punching in a montage – they are intense experiences that earn your fist-pumps and cheers and tears.

This is what happens when a filmmaker is allowed to provide nuance to his characters in a boxing movie. This is what happens when a filmmaker cares about his craft enough to remind us that when athletes sweat and bleed, they are in genuine pain. Creed is a triumph of a movie, a knock-out, if you’ll pardon the pun. It is a skilled director taking a beloved franchise and saying “I’ve got this.”

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About the Author

Jacob Hall is the managing editor of /Film, with previous bylines all over the Internet. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, his pets, and his board game collection.