Film Review: ‘Creed’ went flying higher. Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad delivered in ‘Rocky’ reboot

Film Review, First published in The City Sentinel newspaper, January 2016

The saturation television advertising campaign had a point – ‘Creed’ really was one of the best motion pictures of 2015.
Well-written, skillfully performed and memorably scored, this was a great flick for those who can stand the realistic portrayal of the violent core of boxing.
The film had the pounding violence of the original ‘Rocky’ film, and a spirit close to that mega-hit of 1976, the American Bicentennial year.

Director Ryan Coogler, also the writer, built on the “new” Rocky traditions established in what many thought was the last in the series, “Rocky Balboa” (2006).
Coogler took his time with the story, making us care about Adonis Johnston-Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the born-out-of-wedlock son of Apollo, Rocky’s one-time rival, and eventually close friend.
Frankly, the steady pace of the movie, unhurried until the furious fighting finale, is one of its greatest assets.

The Philadelphia setting for much of the story was superb. Philadelphia itself was a star in scenes on those memorable steps leading to the Museum of Art.
Adonis, the Los Angeles native, is believable as he leaves behind a troubled youth, and privileged young adulthood. He settles in the City of Brotherly Love. There he slowly bonds with dirt-bike riding youths in a series of memorable scenes.

Bianca, portrayed by a profoundly sympathetic Tessa Thompson, is an aspiring-star young singer who is drawn to Adonis. Thompson, a veteran of the “Selma” movie, shines in her time on the screen.
Phylicia Rashad portrayed Apollo’s widow, who took in a young Adonis, raising her as her own child. She was authentic and as beautiful as ever in her memorable cameos.
Tony Bellow, a real-life boxer, was perfectly cast as Creed’s eventual rival. Andre Ward, another fighter, also appeared. Both acquited themselves well.

In training scenes with Adonis and other principals, young boxers (including a woman) provided support to the story line. A variety of seasoned vets of the fight game and of Hollywood popped up in supporting roles, and there was not a false note among them. If Academy Awards could be given for ensembles, this group would have been worthy.
The cinematography of Maryse Alberti was magnificent, and deserved to contend for professional awards and recognition.

As Rocky – an extension of himself – Sylvester Stallone used his veteran skills to great effect. Even at an advanced age, he can pack a punch, both on the screen and in this subdued portrayal as an aging legend.

Creed’ was solid film-making, and a launch pad for Jordan. His popular reach grew later with Creed II. Now a super-star, he was memorable in the pre-pandemic “Just Mercy.” (

If you have the time, catch ‘Creed’ on DVD or in one of its frequent rebroadcasts on cable.