UK Release Date: 15th January 2016
Runtime: 133 minutes
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
Starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish
Synopsis: The son of Adonis Creed seeks out Rocky Balboa in order to train him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a star in the ring.
Did anyone really want to see another Rocky movie? Before the marketing campaign for Creed stepped up a gear, nobody was all that interested in seeing what happened to Sylvester Stallone’s grizzled pugilist after the events of 2006’s belated sequel Rocky Balboa. However, by shifting the focus to a younger, more interesting character, Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler has breathed new life into one of cinema’s most memorable sporting franchises.
Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan), after a troubled childhood, decides that he wants to follow the path of his father and become an in-ring fighter. He travels to Philadelphia and recruits the reluctant services of Rocky (Stallone), who agrees to train him ahead of a big money bout with a bad boy British champion (Tony Bellew). Meanwhile, Adonis becomes attracted to his singing next door neighbour Bianca (Tessa Thompson).
There’s a freshness to Creed that immediately marks it out as a worthy film, which largely ignores its status as a Rocky sequel. It’s true that the story features characters and references to the series, but there’s never a sense that the narrative is being weighed down by its connections to the past. This isn’t the seventh Rocky film – it ‘s the first Creed film.
| "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."
Most of the acclaim – and awards attention – around Creed has gone to Stallone. It’s certainly true that this is as human a character as he has ever played and there’s a fragility underneath the toughness here that is genuinely heart-breaking. Michael B Jordan, so badly served by Fantastic Four, is given a role with real meat. He is an angry youngster who grew up without an influence other than a father whom he had never met. Everyone mythologised Apollo Creed, which left Adonis with no choice but to do the same on a more intense level.
Jordan is aided by director Ryan Coogler’s excellent fight sequences. As with recent boxing flicks like The Fighter and Southpaw, every blow of the bouts in Creed lands hard with the audience as well as the characters. One early sequence plays out in what looks like an unbroken take, heightening the violence. Coogler saves his stylistic flourishes for the sport aspect of the story, with new fighters introduced by title cards indicating their career prowess.
It’s a nice touch of directorial invention that ensures the focus of the film comes back to boxing, regardless of character work. That character work, though, is as dynamic as the pugilism. Jordan’s relationship with Tessa Thompson, tenderly realised, is an intriguing sideplot that proves there’s more to Adonis Creed than trying to escape from the shadow of his famous dad.
| "Time takes everybody out. Time’s undefeated."
Coogler really gives a good account of himself here following the indie success of Fruitvale Station, which alerted the world to the talents of both Jordan and his director. It’s no surprise that the punch of Creed allowed Coogler a swing at making a Marvel film in the shape of Black Panther. A sequel is entirely inevitable, but Coogler and Jordan could well ascend to the Hollywood stratosphere before then.
Pop or Poop?
A film like Creed had almost no expectations of quality going into it, with many imagining a lacklustre follow-up trading entirely on the star wattage of Sylvester Stallone.
Thankfully, Ryan Coogler’s film is a stellar showcase for ascendant star Michael B Jordan that has real energy to everything it does and never gets bogged down in the fan service that could so easily have driven it into generic territory.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.