As far as life’s big questions go, it doesn’t get much bigger than “where would we be without the Rocky movies?” Seriously. Think for a second just how big an impact they’ve had. It’s the most motivational sports movie of all time. It invented the training montage. It gave us Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Without Rocky, there’s no Rambo, or Cobra or Tango & Cash – hell, Sly Stallone would probably have moved on to hardcore porn. Without Rocky, we’d still be fighting the cold war. So thank god for Rocky, and thank god he’s back in our lives.
Note: I won’t spoil the ending, but the following will discuss specifics, so if you’re really anal about avoiding such things for a bloody Rocky movie, stop reading now.
First off the bat, I’ve gotta admit that I am extremely biased towards this movie. I love a good fight film. I love Michael B. Jordan. And anything that can outdo the NFL at promoting rampant PED use and ignorance over repeated concussions is worth-watching in my book.
Anyway, if you’ve somehow missed the hype surrounding this movie, first hand in your sports fan card (you’ll get it back after watching) and allow me to fill you in. The plot’s pretty simple: as it turns out, Apollo Creed had a son – Adonis, and when that son wants to forge his own legacy in the boxing world, who else is he gonna turn to but the man who got his dad killed?
Ensue wholly entertaining “fighter on the come-up” movie: young Donny earns Rocky’s approval. Donny meets girl. Training montage. Rocky and Donny have success in the ring. Donny gets a shot at the champion. Plot complication. Another training montage. Fight night. The end.
So what makes Creed so great? Well, it’s that everything has a very authentic, grounded feel to it, yet because of the movie franchise it belongs to, there’s just enough Rocky-ness to make it completely ridiculous. What am I talking about? The fights. Oh, the fights.
If boxers in real life fought like they did in these films, their careers would last about as long as it took Sly Stallone to correctly pronounce “disestablishmentarianism” (eight months, give or take). They eat punches like it’s a super-food, particularly in the title fight.
Speaking of which, it really bugged me that the champ’s name was “Pretty” Ricky Conlan. You really think a guy from Liverpool, England was nicknamed after a shitty late-90’s R&B duo? Of course not. He’d be “Big” Dick. Big Dick Conlan. Much more culturally appropriate.
So the fight commences, and any attempt by either man to box is quickly discarded like it was a flyer for a university law revue. In and of itself that’s cool. It happens. But it doesn’t ever go twelve rounds. And yet that’s exactly what we get.
Over the course of those twelve rounds we learn a few things. Namely, Rocky might be the worst corner man of all time. Besides making Freddie Roach look more eloquent than the Queen, his advice to a guy who is getting absolutely ripped to shreds ranges from “one step, one punch” to “get him out of the way”. All the while, poor Donny is taking the sort of beating usually reserved for Syrian women learning to read. Also, apparently the University of Arizona licenses boxing referees – well, either that or the Liverpudlians found the one guy in their city who owned a bow tie and put him in the ring, because no actual ref lets this fight continue past the tenth. God I love this movie.
One other thing that often gets underrated in Rocky movies is its subtle use of time-stopping magic. In this case, the ref calling “time” so an obviously-should-be-TKO’ed Creed can have his eye looked at also gives him an extra 120 seconds to have a heart-to-heart with Rocky over whether his father meant to pull out. Never mind modifying his game plan with only half his normal vision, now’s the time to really sort out those feelings.
And of course, in true Rocky fashion. The plan of changing absolutely nothing somehow starts to work as we enter the final rounds, and all of a sudden Donny looks like he has a legitimate shot at winning. I won’t tell you who wins, but suffice to say, Donny leaves the ring with a new sense of self, and a new case of brain damage.
5 stars. And probably as many unnecessary sequels.