Jordan, who also starred in “Fruitvale,” essays Adonis Johnson, the son of famous boxer Apollo Creed, who battled Stallone’s Rocky in earlier films.
The picture also stars Tessa Thompson as Bianca, a local singer who becomes involved with Adonis and Phylicia Rashad as Apollo’s widow.
Former three-time ABA Heavyweight Champion Anthony Bellew plays boxing champ Ricky Conlan.
Conlan is Johnson’s next opponent. He knows it’s a tough fight, so Johnson tracks down Rocky, now running Adrian’s restaurant in suburban Philadelphia. He asks for help to train for the big fight.
Rocky sees the same strength and determination that had saw in Apollo, who became his closest friend after their battles.
A quick study, Jordan reawakens something in Rocky that had long since passed. The scenes of Stallone training with him elicits shrieks and cat calls from the crowd. Face it, Rocky is legend.
Stallone has long been a writer and director. As an actor, he’s astonishing in the hands of director Coogler. Legend has it when Stallone wrote the first “Rocky” installment, his only stipulation was that he would star in it.
Of course, no one wanted him, but he persisted and the picture went on to become a classic. The second and third installments were great too, but after a while the repeated sequels became too much of a runaway train.
Can you recall what ever happened to the character after that third picure, not to mention the three that followed?
Here, Stallone’s gravitas (yes!!!) is striking.
Clearly, he needed another hand to direct. Coogler’s nuanced shots are nothing short of solid. His fresh-take on the Rocky tale, not too mention Stallone, were both needed. He breathes fresh life into the character.
Stallone’s scenes at the graves of wife Adrian and trainer Mickey resonate with real passion.
Adonis does get his shot and while the ending is as foregone conclusion, the fights scenes are as striking as they were in the first film.
In case you wondered, several shots from the original film are re-created here with satisfying results. Philadelphia hasn’t looked this good since that first film. Trust me, I was born there!
Stallone and Coogler have managed to remain faithful to the original Rocky series, while infusing the latest picture with a much needed shot of Adrenalin.
If you were a fan, or still are, this is a must-see. The film opens Wed. (Nov. 25).
Footnote: “Rocky,” the original 1976 film, was directed by John G. Avildsen. Stallone wrote the script and starred. The movie tells the rags-to-riches story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted workingclass Italian-American. He’s working as a debt collector for a loan shark in the slums of Philadelphia, but dreams of being a heavy-weight fighter. The film, made on a budget of just over $1 million and shot in 28 days, was a sleeper hit; it grossed $225 million worldwide and became the highest grossing picture of 1976. It went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture. The film turned Stallone into a major star.