Opening 14 Jan 2016
Writing credits: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington, Sylvester Stallone
Principal actors: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward
Adonis Johnson (Jordan) is a struggling young boxer who gains experience in the underground boxing matches of Mexico. His supportive step-mother is not amused when he announces his intention to drop his job at the bank and follow a boxing career. With nowhere to turn, he ends up in Philadelphia, town of boxing champions Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa (both from prior Rocky films). Johnson is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who played 1985 in Rocky IV and who died before Adonis was born. Johnson relies on his own strength, outside of the shadow and reputation of his famous father. But, he doesn’t hesitate to rely on other former connections to visit retired boxer Rocky Balboa (Stallone), now running a small restaurant. The film follows his training under Rocky, the mental demands required to win, the physical demands (Johnson can jump rope very well), and the film’s final fight against Liverpool boxer Ricky Conlan.
Perhaps director Coogler thought, “What Star Wars can do, we can do as well.” He takes a successful series of films, in this case the six previous Rocky films, and presents a sequel into the present day. Just as Star Wars came out with new actors playing younger characters as well as retaining “oldies” such as Han Solo played by Harrison Ford, so did Coogler manage to convince Sylvester Stallone to come back into his role as Rocky Balboa. Stallone is still very presentable, and an excellent actor, even 40 years after the first Rocky in 1976, although here there is a side story about him fighting his failing health. Tessa Thompson plays Adonis Johnson’s singer girlfriend and is represented on the soundtrack with four songs. The entire soundtrack is an excellent accompaniment to the action in the ring. Anthony Bellew plays Conlan; Coogler found him online, and he truly does originate from Liverpool, England, is a prize-winning amateur boxer and also an actor. He adds much charisma and a British accent to the storyline. It is filmed – where else – in Philadelphia, and, yes, they walk up the famous stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The film is enjoyable for its moral lessons, whether you like boxing or not, and it is not necessary to be too familiar with any of the prior Rocky films, although everyone surely recognizes, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” (Becky Tan)