- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama
For the longest time – since 1976 to be exact – the quintessential boxing movie has to be ‘Rocky’.
It is the stuff of greatness: the rise of a Philadelphia bruiser, who cracks knuckles for the mob, slurps raw eggs and runs around town to get in fighting shape for the fight of his life; and gets the girl at the end too.
It was so good that ‘Rocky’ was nominated for an astounding 10 Oscars. It won best picture. Stallone, a nobody before this, was nominated for best actor and for best screenplay.
Nothing else came close after that, but ‘Creed’ might just deliver the right one-two punch to knock the first one of its throne, ever so slightly.
With ‘Creed’, director Ryan Coogler doesn’t just give us another “boxing movie” but a worthy contender for the best ‘Rocky’ sequel, if not successor.
An avid fan of the original movies, Coogler sticks to ‘Rocky’s’ original spirit while at the same fighting its own battles to make its own name.
In Coogler’s corner is Micheal B Jordan, playing a financial-type-cum-wannabe boxer Adonis Creed, who is the son of the late boxing legend Apollo Creed.
Despite his famous last name, Adonis wants to forge his own path as a a professional boxer, so he quits his job, moves out of his mother’s palatial mansion, and uproots himself to Philadelphia to enlist the help of Rocky, who was his dad’s greatest boxing rival-turned-best friend. Reluctant at first, Rocky eventually decides to help Adonis.
As Adonis starts his training, he also meets his downstairs neighbour and love interest Bianca, played by Tessa Thompson.
An up-and-coming actor whose CV includes ‘Fruitvale Station’ and ‘Fantastic Four’, Jordan turns in a powerful performance as the angsty young Creed. Filled with unresolved daddy issues, Adonis wants to make his own name in the boxing world.
But delivering the movie’s knock-out punch is none other than Sylvester Stallone himself as the one and only Rocky Balboa. But this Rocky has hung up his gloves and is content with his quiet life as a restaurateur. With his wife gone and his only son living far away, this Rocky has nothing else to life for. Him relenting to Adonis' requests to train him stems from Rocky wanting to do right by his old friend who never knew his son.
Stallone turns in an inspired performance -- his best ever in a movie -- as the ageing boxer, embuing the character with vulnerability and pathos.
Here, Stallone takes a back seat and instead plays mentor to Adonis. And from the looks of it, both Stallone and Rocky relish their new roles.
Coogler’s script written with best pal Aaron Covington, although sticks to the ‘Rocky’ formula, is filled with emotional appeal. Just when you thought the movie is going one-way, Coogler feints and throws in a sucker-punch to steer the ‘Creed’ in another direction.
And with the movie’s dialogue (not written by Stallone) is a godsend as well. The writing here is definitely polished, however the recurring social conflicts can be quite frustrating to follow.
Hardcore fans can play “Spot the ‘Rocky’ movie references” especially as Rocky trains Adonis, but the nods to the past are always handled with a nuanced touch. The great use of the familiar ‘Rocky’ anthems mashed with hip hop strengthens the film’s intergenerational themes.
All these of course, is for the main event, Adonis’ fight with cocky champion boxer, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (played by real life boxer Tony Bellew).
Here is where ‘Creed’ is at its element. The close-up handheld camera shots, the bone-crunching action and midfight pauses all evoke the spirit of ‘Rocky’ but with a modern twist.
Key to the movie’s success is the great chemistry between Rocky and Adonis where both play mentor and student to one another.
‘Creed’ leaves other boxing movies in the shade. Rousing and heartwarming, the movie proves that there still is life in the franchise as all it needed was an injection of young blood.
‘Creed’ opens 26 November 2015