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dir Ryan Coogler
scr Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
prd Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler, Sylvester Stallone, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Kevin King Templeton
with Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, Graham McTavish, Malik Bazille, Ricardo McGill, Gabe Rosado
release US 25.Nov.15, UK 15.Jan.16
15/US MGM 2h12
One step one punch: Jordan and Stallone
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Essentially Rocky VII, this rousing boxing drama also stands on its own thanks to clever, skilful writing and direction that hark back to the series while plotting an all-new course. That's the essential thrust of the story as well: making peace with the past to take control of the future. And the textured performances make sure the message isn't laid on too thickly.
Although he has a great job and lives in a Los Angeles mansion with his adoptive mother (Rashad), Adonis (Jordan) sneaks off to box in backroom Tijuana matches. Basically, he can't help but fight, warring inside himself over the father he never knew, the late boxing legend Apollo Creed. So he heads to Philadelphia to get some answers from his dad's rival-buddy Rocky (Stallone), who reluctantly agrees to teach him a few tricks to use in the ring. And before they're quite ready, they're training for a big match against the British champ (Bellew).
As he did in Fruitvale Station, director Coogler adeptly captures scenes in ways that take the audience far beneath the surface. His clever use of camera movement and especially long takes reveals details within characters, guiding viewers into sometimes overwhelming emotional resonance. From the training montages to the boxing matches, each sequence is expertly shot and edited to add meaning and subtext. Which of course brings out the best in the actors.
Jordan is both a bundle of confused emotions and a raging warrior in the role, which encompasses not only the beefy athleticism but pungent relational interaction with an unusually relaxed and effective Stallone, as well as the sexy-tough Thompson in a remarkably complex role as Adonis' love interest. Together, the cast fills scenes with offhanded humour, emotional intensity and gritty drama that continually catch the audience by surprise.
The film's most riveting angle is Andonis' yearning to understand who he is apart from his random paternity. So there's a powerful emotional gut-punch when he finally claims his father's name, especially since he's making it his own. Despite a couple of pointed plot points and so much grisliness that we wonder why boxing is still a sport, the story has a natural trajectory that speaks loudly to everyone, especially fans of the original Rocky. Like that classic, this is a personal drama about a boxer with something to prove who learns something far more important.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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