Constantly brawling his way through group homes and detention centers, the bastard son of Apollo Creed is taken in by the great fighter's widow where she, even after providing a good home, education, career, and sense of direction, can't remove the chip from his shoulder. Determined to make his own name, the untested pugilist travels from L.A. to Liberty City to look up his father's old nemesis in the hopes of having him mold him into the next great light heavyweight champion. Despite being the seventh entry in the Rocky series, what director Ryan Coogler, cowriter Aaron Covington, star Michael B. Jordan, and Sylvester Stallone all understand (which Southpaw, 2015's other boxing saga failed to) is the investment in characterization, and with Jordan, Creed finds the same likable, good natured spirit that Sly (who himself reprises his role with a thoughtful performance) brought to some previous movies. The filmmaking itself is impressive, especially the surprisingly limited fight sequences which are given immediacy by in-ring shooting. At the end of the day, a good movie is a good movie, yes, but Rocky VII is still Rocky VII. Entertaining as it is, it still feels like an exercise for Coogler and co. who I hope in the future will lend their talents to something less recycled.
*** 1/2 out of ****