This one’s a knockout

I admit I went in sneering. Rocky Seven? Please. But while I’m neither a huge fan of Sylvester Stallone nor the sport of boxing, I came out revitalized, thoroughly entertained and even a little misty.

The film works for several reasons. Rather than a rehash, it builds on the Rocky legend while trying something new. A main reason for its success is the fine work in the title role by the charismatic, up-and-coming Michael B. Jordan, who has the acting chops to match the ripped boxer’s bod. The dynamic direction is by co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), another new talent. Watch for the long tracking shots. But the real surprise is the tender, finely nuanced performance by Sly himself.

Jeez, I truly never thought I’d write those words. It’s his best work since, well, Rocky in 1976.

The storyline has Adonis (“Donnie”) Creed, the son of former Rocky rival Apollo Creed, seeking the aging legend’s help as a trainer. The requisite romantic subplot is given just the right weight, and the film never sags. At times I wanted to stand up and cheer, at others I needed my hanky. This one’s a knockout. (133 min)