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“Creed” Reviewed

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Boxing movies are a hard breed , they are like romcoms for men and easy to screw up. Me? I’ll take Humphrey Bogart in “The Harder They Fall” over “Raging Bull” or “Rocky” and nearly anything over the lousy “Ali”, but I enjoyed the sadsack loser “Rocky” where for Sly Stallone, life imitating art made him a superstar..

The “Rocky” franchise, which began with a nobody boxer being given a shot at the World Heavyweight Title against Apollo Creed, and losing but finding true love along the way. And his self respect. It was a masterpiece of American opportunity written small. The last time we saw the pugilist was # 6 in the franchise back in 2006 with “Rocky Balboa”, Adrian was dead and Rocky took on the world heavyweight one last time.

Nine years later, and Sly neither wrote nor directed “Creed”, the honor went to Ryan Coogler, the man responsible for the black lives matter true story of a Oscar Bart II -shot in the back by a policeman in 2009, “Fruitvale Station”. Creed is the story of Apollo’s illegitimate son, played by the excellent Michael T. Hall,  who bounces between foster homes before being adopted by Apollo’s wife. Ten years later, “Donnie” Creed”  wants to become a boxer, when his Ma balks (Phylicia Rashād) he retraces his father’s steps and ends up at Rocky’s restaurant. The Creed name gets him a shot at the World Lightweight Title.

This is an ultimate male bonding love story. Hall is a fine actor, Sly gives perhaps his best performance as an old man, battered by loss, who finds a reason to live through this young man, a new family, a new way to carry on. Tessa Thompson as Donnie’s love interest is fine and there is a gentleness about the relationship that stands in the face of hip hop’s sexist clout. Tony Belew, the English professional boxer,  is brutal as the boxer who has no respect for Creed but learns his toughness in the ring.

Many of the things you love about “Rocky” is here, friendship, respect, craft, the need for love, respect for women. And an exciting punch up conclusion. No it isn’t “The Harder They Fall” but it is a very good boxing movie.

Grade: B+

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