Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and actor Michael B. Jordan (also of Station) resurrect the Rocky franchise with what amounts to the best Rocky film since the 1976 original. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed (played in past films by Carl Weathers) and born out of wedlock. Adonis goes to Philadelphia and enlists the help of his father’s former foe and friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to coach him into becoming a professional boxer. The story is a familiar one, and it’s told with style and class in rousing fashion. Coogler does some of the best fight sequences since Scorsese’s Raging Bull, including a first fight that plays like one take. The final bout between Adonis and overseas Irish villain ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) is sports cinema at its very best. Coogler also finds a way to weave that iconic Bill Conti music into the score at perfect moments. Jordan proves a more-than-worthy new addition to the franchise, while Stallone delivers a career best performance returning to his most recognized role. Heck, the man could find himself in Oscar contention. When Rocky IV came out in 1985, I pissed and moaned about how stupid it was. I genuinely hated it. Without Rocky IV, which killed off Apollo at the hands of cartoon character Ivan Drago, we wouldn’t have Creed. I guess I’m retroactively grateful for the existence of Rocky IV.

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