Creed (2015)

Review #1,239

Director:  Ryan Coogler
Cast:  Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Plot:  The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

Genre:  Drama / Sport
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Supporting Actor
Runtime:  133min
Rating:  PG13 for violence, language and some sensuality.
Distributor:  Warner Brothers

“That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face.”

If Creed proves anything, it proves that Ryan Coogler is no one-trick pony.  The director of Fruitvale Station (2013), his Cannes and Sundance award-winning indie debut, follows up with a bigger project, with star Sylvester Stallone and star-in-the-making Michael B. Jordan (who was also the lead in Fruitvale Station), backed by major studios MGM and Warner. 

While Fruitvale Station is raw and powerful as a social commentary, Creed is loud and testosterone-laden – one might even accuse the movie of bragging about its brawny style of filmmaking.  It is also confident and comfortable in its own skin, not to mention polished. 

Stallone returns as Rocky Balboa, now an ageing man, but still respected as one of the preeminent boxers of his time.  Creed is Adonis Johnson's story though, backed by a powerhouse performance by Jordan, who plays the late Apollo Creed's biological son (from an affair) no one knows.  You probably won't care about all these plot points if you aren't a fan of the 'Rocky' series (I must confess I'm not quite the convert) but even if you go in blind, Creed is a crowd-pleaser and largely entertaining boxing movie. 

It is a film not just about family and shared history, be it upholding the legacy of a famous name, or bonding between a veteran and upcoming pro, the themes explored by Creed also parallel the newfound growth of the franchise, elevating it on the legacy ladder. 

While not exactly a superb movie (I think The Fighter (2010) and Warrior (2011) are better films of this nature, as far as this half-decade is concerned), Creed is solid, and together with the pseudo-reboot Rocky Balboa (2006), they have the distinction of banishing the ignominy that was Rocky IV (1985) and Rocky V (1990), injecting new life and an interesting, if diverging, trajectory for the franchise. 

Most of the boxing scenes are intense, with Coogler going for a number of on-the-shoulder shots for a greater sense of immediacy.  The HBO sports-style coverage leading up to the climactic boxing match also adds to the film’s excitement.  Creed will probably not get any awards buzz (even if it deserves some sort of consideration for Jordan's performance), but it exceeds expectations on every level. 

Verdict:  Loud, testosterone-laden and largely entertaining, 'Creed' brings the 'Rocky' franchise upwards on the legacy ladder.


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