The Contenders: Southpaw and Creed

 

Rocky is one of my all-time favorite film franchises right up there with the Godfather Trilogy, The Color Purple, Martin Scorsese films and ANY Jane Austin flick.  I was always impressed with the fact that Stallone refused to cave in and let the studios buys the rights to his script without him as the star.  Seriously, could you even imagine “Rocky” WITHOUT Sylvester Stallone?

“Creed” is the latest in the “Rocky” film franchise and is the first script NOT written by Stallone. “Fruitvale Station” director cuts his teeth on his first major studio film Directing and Writing “Creed” just as Stallone did 20 years ago and does so magnificently.

Coogler honors the franchise with some formulas from “Rocky” former versions like that infamous statue, which no longer sits atop those stairs, running through the streets of Philly, training at Mick’s gym, the meticulously shot and choreographed boxing rounds, the turtles purchased from Adrian in the pet shop, the love interest with a disability, the shorts and a match against a famous foreign boxer.  Needless to say, only a real “Rocky” fan would notice all those intricate details…which I am proud to say I am.

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“Creed” introduces us to the illegitimate son of the legendary Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.  Unable to shake his unspoken legacy, Adonis makes a decision to become a professional boxer who only wants to be trained by “Rocky”.  One of the most important lines spoken is during the match when “Rocky” ask Adonis what he i trying to prove and he replies, ” I need to prove I wasn’t a mistake”  That one line says it all.

Something so powerful, yet so simple drives one to make decisions that may not make sense to anyone else but them.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed) is giving the performance of a lifetime and does so with every fiber of his being.  It’s magnificently electric and exciting to watch!  Even more exciting is watching the chemistry unfold between Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Bianca).  It’s absolutely smoldering in the same fashion it was between Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone.  Thompson is a mysteriously beautiful enigma who becomes the “beauty” to the “beast” so to speak.

Phylicia Rashad is such a spectacular actress that she makes any role she embodies look like a walk in the park which is a testament to her brilliance.  I only wish she had been on the screen a little longer.

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If you are a fan of the “Rocky” franchise, Coogler,  Jordan, Thompson or Stallone, you will definitely not be disappointed in “Creed”.  “Creed” is in theaters now.

 

 

 

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On the flip side, we have “Southpaw” starring  Jake Gylenhall.  Gylenhall (Billy Hope) is the heavyweight champion of the world and loses his childhood sweetheart and wife in a tragic set of circumstances.  This sets off a chain of events that result in other major loses for Hope including his daughter to child protection services.  In an effort to get his life and career back on track, Hope enlists the assistance of Tick Willis (Forest Whittaker).

It goes without saying that since it s a boxing flick, one is bound to make similarities to “Rocky”, but “Southpaw” stands on its own merit mostly due to the amazing performance of Gyllenhaal. This actor has the uncanny ability to disappear into any role he inhabits with gusto.  From “Brokeback Mountain” to “Nightcrawler” to “Southpaw” unarguably proves that.

Rachel McAdams (Maureen Hope) is having a stellar year in film with this performance and in “Spotlight”.  As Maureen, she is the perfect counterpart to Gyllenhall and her death scene heartbreaking.

However, it is young Oona Laurence (Laila Hope) who steals the show.  Her emotional range is well beyond her years and she is enchanting to watch.

Southpaw was released in July 2015.

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