Face-Off: Southpaw vs. Creed

With BLEED FOR THIS hitting theaters this month, we're taking a look back at the two most prominent boxing films of 2015. SOUTHPAW saw Antoine Fuqua team up with Sons of Anarchy brainchild Kurt Sutter for a look at what happens when a championship boxer hits rock bottom, and CREED continued the legacy of the ROCKY franchise with the son of Apollo Creed seeking help from Rocky Balboa to become one of the greats. Which one will be left standing when the fight's over, though? Ring that bell, and let's find out!
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers another of his transformative performances as Billy Hope, disappearing into the terribly flawed but hugely sympathetic character. It's refreshing to see a protagonist who not only isn't intelligent but is also humbly aware of it, which Gyllenhaal pulls off admirably.
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis "Donnie" Johnson Creed doesn't go through quite the same emotional gauntlet as Gyllenhaal, and so a bit less is asked from an acting perspective, but Jordan commits fully to the role nonetheless and is the perfect choice to carry on the spirit of Apollo Creed and the ROCKY franchise.
Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope
Forest Whitaker as Tick Wills
Oona Laurence as Leila Hope
Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson as Jordan Mains
Naomie Harris as Angela Rivera
Victor Ortiz as Ramone
Miguel Gomez as Miguel "Magic" Escobar
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Tessa Thompson as Bianca
Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed
Graham McTavish as Tommy Holiday
Wood Harris as Tony "Little Duke" Evers
Ritchie Coster as Pete Sporino
Hans Marrero as Flores

Stallone, period.
After Billy "The Great" Hope's wife is killed, the boxer finds himself in an abusive downward spiral. When his daughter is put into protective care and his career falls apart, Hope seeks guidance from seasoned boxer Titus "Tick" Wills to help mend to his life both in and out of the ring.

SOUTHPAW was criticized for having such a by-the-numbers plot, but I'll give it a point both for going to places most boxing films won't and for raising the stakes with Leila being the reason he has to improve instead of just wanting to prove he can do it.
Adonis Creed, son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed, seeks training from his deceased father's friend and onetime protege, Rocky Balboa, who finds himself in the midst of health-related existential difficulty.

CREED also features a fairly familiar plot, but the fact that Ryan Coogler and company were able to so seamlessly reboot the franchise with a new character while also continuing the tale of Rocky Balboa with a compelling story absolutely deserves a point.
"A fighter knows only one way to work."

"You want to go two rounds with me, champ? That's very impressive."

"When I was twelve years old there was this little girl, she was skinny, she had ratty hair, she had been through it. She stuck with me when I was incarcerated a couple of times, and I knew she was there. I wouldn't be here without my wife Maureen."
"Billy Hope knows how to take a punch, but he also drops bombs."

"Billy, you know if it makes money, it makes sense."

"But I'm asking you... because we're about to see Leila... so I want to know what kind of shape you're in."
"I'm a f*ckin' mess!"

"You've gotta let her hate you so she can get better."
"I can't lose my daughter. I'll give you my everything."

"We start tomorrow."
"What, like training?"
"No, baking cookies."

"God must have some kind of plan to teach me some kind of lesson. I just can't figure out what it is."

"These kids coming up in here I'm telling them a bunch of stuff this bullshit. 'It's gonna be alright. You can control your destiny. You could control this you could control that.' You can't control shit."

"Don't let him take this from you. Don't let him get into your head. You got one shot. Go southpaw. Go southpaw on his ass. You got to go out there and you... beat his ass!"
"Apollo? Yeah, he was great. Perfect fighter. Ain't nobody ever better."
"So how did you beat him?"
"Time beat him. Time, you know, takes everybody out. It's undefeated."

"Did you call me unc?"
"Yeah, it was either that or O.G."
"What’s an O.G.?"
"Old-ass gangster."
"Unc is good."

"One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time."

"You can't learn anything when you're talking. That's a fact of life. As long as you're talking, you're not listening."

"You see this guy here staring back at you? That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face. I believe that's true in the ring, and I think that's true in life."

"Chickens have gotten slower."

"So, what are you afraid of?"
"I'm afraid of taking on the name and losing"

"Here we go, Paulie. Happy Birthday, my friend. I didn’t forget ya. Your favorite. Miss ya, pal. Yo, Adrian, my darling. The best of the best."

"If I could take everything that was good and put it into a bowl or something and say, 'Hey, here, I'd like to buy one more day with my wife,' I'd do it. I would die a happy man, right then. Not gonna happen. So, everything I got has moved on and I'm here."
"Now were going to shut his big mouth aren't we?"

"Don't! I have to prove it!"
"Prove what?"
"That I'm not a mistake!"
Antoine Fuqua is a master of making a film look and feel just right, and SOUTHPAW is no exception. There's a lot of grit here but also enough heart to keep us invested.
Ryan Coogler does an excellent job with CREED, setting a tone fitting of the franchise and modern filmmaking alike; there's just nothing unique or impressive enough here to compete with Fuqua.
In his effort to focus on drama and realism, Fuqua sort of buries the boxing in SOUTHPAW. Not only is there not much to begin with, but the scenes focus so much on the spectators and the environment that the boxing itself feels more incidental than prominent.
As expected from a ROCKY movie, CREED features some excellent fights. Filming the first fight as a single take rather than resorting to the usual flurry of quick cuts is genius and commands focus brilliantly.
James Horner's final score is a beautiful swan song for the late composer, almost imperceptible at times but always present, guiding us through Hop's journey. We also get the occasional snippets of the Eminem-produced soundtrack to the film, which complements Gyllenhaal's character nicely.
Scoring a ROCKY film is no easy task- do you use the iconic Bill Conti music and risk feeling dated, or do you ignore it completely and alienate the die hard fans? Ultimately, Coogler and composer Ludwig Göransson strike a nice balance, blending hip hop with a traditional score and pulling out the original music at just the right moments.
IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 57% (Audience Score: 76%)
Metacritic: 57 (User Score: 7.9)
Domestic Total Gross: $52,421,953
IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (Audience Score: 89%)
Metacritic: 82 (User Score: 8.1)
Domestic Total Gross: $109,767,581
Ultimately, your own feelings about the ROCKY franchise and how well CREED did or didn't continue the legacy will have an impact on your preference, but CREED feels a bit more compelling and well-rounded than SOUTHPAW, which can tend to stay on one note for long periods of time. Let me know your preference down below as well as if you'll be checking out BLEED FOR THIS when it comes to cinemas November 18th!

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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