Rated 3.0

Ryan Coogler's alternately thrilling and deflating Creed marks Sylvester Stallone's seventh go-round as Philly palooka turned heavyweight champ and Red scourge Rocky Balboa, and it's easy to see why Stallone can't quit this character. Rocky is Stallone's soul and legacy, and while the part still fits him like a fingerless glove and pork pie hat, he was wise to take a supporting role here. Creed reinvigorates the franchise by introducing a new lead character and threading him into the Rocky-verse, and Stallone's onscreen “blessing” is essential to making that transition legitimate. Even better for a franchise that has indulged in its share of racism, the film focuses on a young African-American (Michael B. Jordan), and invests him with the same common-man toughness and rough-edged likeability that made Rocky so popular in the first place. Unfortunately, after an astonishing centerpiece fight sequence, the film plummets into tired convention—Creed proves just good enough to be disappointing. D.B.