Adonis Johnson was a kid who never knew his father. For that matter, as he spent most of his youth bouncing from foster homes to juvenile detention centers, he really didn't remember much about his mother, either.
Somewhere in his tweens, though, this edgy kid—who was always ready to throw a punch—was thrown a break. He was adopted by the widow of a famous boxer named Apollo Creed. And he was told who his father really was. Turns out this Creed guy had an out-of-wedlock tryst … and Adonis was the unwanted result. Unwanted until Mary Ann Creed found him, that is.
Jump ahead a dozen years or so, and Adonis is still a guy ready to throw a punch. In fact, he'd much rather spend his weekends teaching himself to fight and boxing in Tijuana slug matches than focusing on a business track.
A fighting career, though, isn't going to be any easy thing, even for a guy with Adonis' pedigree. For one thing he refuses to use his father's name. He'd rather stake his own claim in the ring, if it's going to happen. On top of that, his adopted mom hates the idea. She clearly remembers how the fight game destroyed her husband.
And since L.A. trainers do nothing but throw shade at Adonis due to his self-taught status, there only seems to be one course of action for this determined young man: he'll fly off to Philadelphia. Maybe starting anew on the East Coast will give him a nobody-knows-him fresh start.
Besides, there's this old guy out there who used to have a love-hate relationship with his father. A boxer who went toe-to-toe with Apollo Creed on a couple of notable occasions. He's a pretty well-known guy in the City of Brotherly Love.
Maybe this former ring-slugger … named Rocky … will agree to give Adonis some pointers.
Speaking of pointers, the film takes a lot of time pointing out that working hard is a foundational principle for life. No matter how difficult the task is, you need to give it all you've got. Even a failure is worth the effort getting there. That's proven out in Adonis' training and in Rocky's own struggles when he gets some bad health news from his doctor.
Secondly, it's stressed that family and forgiveness are essentials. Rocky repeatedly pushes Adonis to let go of the anger he feels for his father and his father's past actions. And Adonis eventually mends all his relational bridges, with his mother, his quasi-uncle Rocky and with his dead dad. Adonis and a singer/neighbor named Bianca start dating, and she extends forgiveness when discovering that her guy had been harboring a small lie of his own.
Adonis and Bianca kiss a few times, and they begin caressing and smooching pretty passionately on one occasion. (It's implied that they go on to something much steamier.) Bianca is seen in a rather formfitting outfit while singing at a club. And in another instance she wears a towel-like wrap. Adonis, of course, shows off his chiseled torso on a number of occasions.
When Adonis moves into Rocky's spare room, he spots a girlie mag (sporting a mostly clothed model) among the things left behind by the room's last resident. As mentioned, we find out that Adonis is the result of Apollo Creed's extramarital affair.
Boxing scenes feature men regularly pounding on one another with powerful blows. In spite of the padded gloves, brows and cheeks are split open by the punches. Faces swell. Eyes bleed. And on a few occasions someone is sent tumbling unconscious to the ring floor. Two different boxers lose their tempers and tear into somebody with bare fists. We're told that one of the victims has his jaw broken. We see a pair of young boys punching each other with bare knuckles, as well.
Crude or Profane Language
A half-dozen s-words. Also, "a--" (four or five times), "b--ch" and "h---" (once or twice each). Jesus' name is misused once. There are two or three uses of "oh my god." The n-word is spit out once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A fight crowd drinks beer and hard liquor at a Tijuana bout. Rocky puts a bottle of whiskey on his friend Paulie's grave. Adonis' mom drinks a glass of wine while watching him fight on TV.
Other Negative Elements
We see Rocky vomit (from an unknown illness).
For all the sneers people have thrown at some of the Rocky films, Rocky Balboa has become a beloved and, yes, iconic character in our American movie lexicon. Through seven Rocky pics now, we've watched the boxer go from lovable Philly palooka to chiseled super-stud to over-the-top cartoon to good-hearted mentor. And seeing Sylvester Stallone work his way through all those stages—while remaining true to the heart of the guy he first created—has helped us realize what sort of an actor he really is.
I say all that because, quite frankly, Stallone and his aging Rocky—even though he's in a supporting role now—is what's most worth watching in Creed. There's also a forgive-and-work-hard storyline that's punch-and-weave positive—though predictable, in a formulaic series-reboot kind of way. And the potential below-the-belt boxing boisterousness is kept fairly well reined in.
Even though the pic feels slow at times and at least a half hour too long, it's not too difficult to stay in your ringside moviehouse seat. I wish they'd left the profanity and sexual nods on the mat right along with the sweat and the blood, certainly. But there's something undeniably affirming and upright about the rest of this. Something that might even make you want to say "Yo!"
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson; Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa; Tessa Thompson as Bianca; Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed; Tony Bellew as 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan
Ryan Coogler ( Fruitvale Station)
November 25, 2015
March 1, 2016