The Irish connection in Creed III
With all the Irish talent on display at the Oscars last week, it’s easy to overlook a deep Irish connection to another new Hollywood hit – Creed III.
No, star and director Michael B. Jordan is not a distant cousin of any Irish filmmaker. Or if it is, then that’s not the point here.
I’m talking about the story at the center of a 50-year-old franchise that began in the mid-1970s with Sly Stallone and his Rocky.
All these years later, in Creed III, Jordan once again plays Adonis “Donnie” Creed, son of Apollo Creed, a one-time enemy of Rocky Balboa who later became Rocky’s sidekick.
In Creed III, we learn about young Creed’s tough youth.
“The creed of Adonis we know is not yet the creed we know, a wayward champion working in his father’s shadow,” noted Rolling Stone magazine.
“Here he is just 15 years old. He’s the sidekick of an older teenager named Damian – they call him ‘Diamond Dame’ – who is well on his way to becoming boxing’s next big thing.”
No spoilers to note that things don’t go as planned.
“There is an incident of a gun and an attack and finally the police. There is an arrest. The details are complicated, but the result is neat. Two young black men, two different destinies and a pair of paths that will collide like hell when they meet again.”
In other words, Adonis becomes famous and rich while Diamond Dame goes to prison.
“Creed III is about what happens when the grown Creed, a man from the top, is forced to answer for another young man’s sacrifice…many years later,” as Rolling Stone put it under a headline capturing the Movie called “muscular, Punishing Statement on Race in America.”
But it’s also a reboot of a classic Irish-American flick starring Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Cagney.
1938’s Angels With Dirty Faces is also about two rough town buddies who get into trouble as kids.
One of them goes to jail. The other leads a far more respectable life.
There’s no spoiler to be noted that the two Irish diehards will see each other again as adults.
Angels With Dirty Faces is not a boxing film. But one of the characters is called Rocky.
As luck would have it, the Toronto International Film Festival is planning several screenings of the Cagney O’Brien film next month to mark its 85th anniversary.
“Angels With Dirty Faces is often considered the archetypal Hollywood gangster film of the 1930s,” reads a press release from the festival.
The two Irish brawlers in the film are Rocky Sullivan (Cagney) and Jerry Connelly (O’Brien). Both are caught by the police as children, but only Sullivan is arrested.
“Rocky is sent to a juvenile detention center where he quickly descends into crime and gangster fame. In contrast, Jerry later becomes a priest and fervently tries to prevent a group of unscrupulous youth from falling under Rocky’s influence and following in his footsteps, bringing him at odds with his childhood friend.”
The point here is not that the Irish-American experience of the 1930s is exactly the same as the African-American experience of Donnie Creed and Diamond Dame.
But a lot of people across the media landscape these days are a little too fascinated by how different we all are. As if nothing that is going on in the world right now could have any precedent in any way, shape or form.
Some of the people who think this way are fanatics who think the good old days should never have ended.
But others who think so have good intentions and, as they see it, want to call out injustice and injustice.
It’s just that they think they’re the first people in human history to ever realize that sometimes things are unjust and unfair.
But the truth is, Rocky Sullivan could have taught Donnie Creed a thing or two, just like Rocky Balboa did.
And Donnie Creed could certainly teach the two Irish die-hards a lot.