Whatever happened to Paulie's Robot?
“Creed” is one of the most visually compelling sports films of the last twenty years. That being said, it’s nothing more than a retread of what one has come to expect from the Rocky franchise. Sure, young Adonis Creed is better off than Balboa and sports the African American identity politics. It’s just that what else does our new hero do that was much different than the last time America cared about feature film boxing? How many times can you force a boxer to work as an inspirational figure?
I recognize Rocky’s place in American film history. However, I grew up with everything from Thunderlips to Paulie’s Robot to everything about Rocky V. Excuse me, if I don’t bend myself backwards to pretend like I care about the Italian Stallion. That being said, Creed answers that criticism by forcing us to care about Adonis Creed. Young Donnie wasn’t born quite yet, when his father died fighting Ivan Drago. Growing up in and out of Juvie, while never knowing his father…Creed has fought to prove himself.
All the while, he lives in the care of Apollo’s wife who doesn’t seem entirely thrilled to be taking care of one of her deceased husband’s bastards. She works with Donnie, as he rises up to a white collar job that would’ve been normally out of reach. While Donnie grinds it out during the day, he spends his nights heading to Mexico to fight. Then, it’s back at a white collar job that could push a man into making soap with his imaginary friend. But, you don’t want to hear about that. You came to hear about the fighting.
Ryan Coogler proves that he has visual chops that I never saw in his work on Fruitvale Station. While I was not a fan of the prior film, I see the Coogler/Jordan team-up produce something that I haven’t seen in a Rocky film since 1985. The material is fresh, the score is novel and the visuals matter again. While I didn’t care for the British boxer and that baggage, it doesn’t matter. This is Adonis “Donnie” Creed’s film to shine and he finds a way to tap into that Stallone energy from across a gulf of four decades.
Stallone has been getting a fair amount of buzz for his work in Creed. It’s warranted, but I also feel that it’s seemingly backhanded from those that heap on the praise. Does Stallone do anything different than what Burgess Meredith brought to the role of Mickey Goldmill? Not really. But, being a beaten down boxer has only required showing that you have a fair degree of humanity. Stallone offers that humanity up so earnestly that it’s hard not to view him as likable, but I wouldn’t call it Awards worthy.
Such is the case when one tries to observe Creed from a distance. It’s good, but not great. Fun, but memorable? Have we come to a point in popular cinema when everything has to be a home run or a dud? What do we do with the films that live in the middle of the spectrum? I refuse to hype good work into something that nostalgia and collective bargaining demands to be better. Creed is a fine movie. That alone makes it the third best Rocky movie ever made.
RELEASE DATE: 11/25/2015