CREED (USA/12A/133mins)
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson.
THE PLOT: Having tried and failed to enter training to be a professional boxer, Adonis ‘Donnie’ Creed (Michael B. Jordan) approaches Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the hopes his father’s old friend and opponent will train him. As the two work toward making Donnie a truly great fighter, their friendship grows stronger.
THE VERDICT: Rocky is back, but this time he is on the other side of the ropes. In this film that is remarkably similar to the very first Rocky film, Balboa trains a young fighter to take on the world heavyweight champion. The good news, however, is that ‘Creed’ is remarkably fun and emotionally engaging.
Michael B. Jordan takes on the role of Adonis Johnson, the son of the late great Apollo Creed, who died to stand up for his friend Rocky Balboa. Jordan makes Donnie a character who is not without his troubles and his flaws, but is also charming and tenacious, with a strong sense of loyalty. Sylvester Stallone makes Balboa grumpy but funny and kind, and Tessa Thompson takes on the role of Creed’s love interest Bianca.
Screenwriters Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington pick up the legacy of the ‘Rocky’ films, and while paying himage to how the films began, they create a new story from the familiar tale of the underdog. The dialogue is strong and the characters well rounded – even Bianca is given more than just a surface layer of character, although her continued use of the word ‘female’ when referring to women becomes annoying. Of course montages abound and nobody really wants Creed to be a fighter, but this is why he is such an emotionally rewarding underdog.
As director, Ryan Coogler makes the film light and entertaining, while bringing the emotion of Rocky’s past into play. The film comes in at a whopping 133 minutes long, but is well paced enough for this not to feel like an issue. There is also some clever cinematography and enough going on to keep both die-hard Rocky fans, and those new to the franchise engaged. Coogler allows Jordan to take centre stage for the film – giving him his ‘Whiplash’ moment – but makes sure that the supporting cast also feel like real and relatable people.
In all, ‘Creed’ is a well-rounded, well-paced and engaging boxing film. Jordan has his moment to shine and takes it. The only trouble is that we have not only seen this story before in the Rocky franchise, but in just about every film about a sporting underdog. Still, this new start to the Rocky franchise is engaging, emotional and fits right in with the rest of the films in the series, while kickstarting the franchise for a whole new generation.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Packs a punch
  • filmbuff2011

    Ryan Coogler’s 2013 debut feature Fruitvale Station showed great potential. He was confidently able to capture the beat of the streets and the tragedy of a young man caught in the crossfire of tense police/public relations. His sophomore effort Creed is a bold, confident step forward and certainly gets over that difficult second film syndrome. It’s not directly a sequel to the Rocky films per se, but it does stand head and shoulders with them.

    Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has a lot of pent-up anger within him. In and out of juvenile centres when he was a kid, he gets his anger out through boxing. It’s in his blood – he is the son of the world’s greatest boxer, Apollo Creed. However, he shuns the surname and instead wants to strike out on his own without the pressure of the father that died before he was born. Quitting his desk job in Los Angeles, he heads to Philadelphia to seek out the great Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky was Apollo’s greatest rival and subsequently became his greatest friend. He finds Rocky retired from the boxing life, quietly living out the rest of his days running a restaurant. He urges Rocky to train him like he did his father. But Rocky is reluctant, having put the glorious past behind him. Slowly, but surely, he courts Rocky back into the ring to train him and face off against the world champion, Ricky Conlan (Tony Belle). With a tentative relationship with spiky neighbour Bianca (Tessa Thompson) on the cards, there’s no stopping Adonis from reaching the top. It won’t be an easy ride though…

    The story of Creed is a bit like the backstory to it. When first approached by Coogler, Stallone was reluctant to bring back Rocky. After all, it’s his baby and 2006’s Rocky Balboa went out on a high, the ideal tribute to Stallone’s most enduring character (sorry Rambo). It took several goes before Coogler convinced Stallone to return as Rocky. When you see the film, you’ll be able to understand why. Rocky is a supporting character and the years have passed. This isn’t quite the Rocky we last saw. Even time catches up with the greatest warrior. But what Coogler has done is achieve the perfect balance of tone – old and new, nostalgia and new hopes, humour and heart, conflict and peace. His script with Aaron Covington is spot-on about Rocky and where we find him at this stage in his life. It pays tribute to Stallone’s creation in a respectful manner and allows him to bounce off young upstart Adonis (the film’s biggest laugh involves Rocky not understanding about modern technology). It’s essentially about Adonis, but Rocky is very much a presence throughout.

    There’s a warm relationship that develops between these two characters over the course of the film. They come to rely on each other and understand each other’s needs. Whatever you want to say about his variable acting, Stallone knows Rocky inside out. It’s a lovely, melancholic performance and is surely worthy of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. One of the film’s most touching scenes simply involves a chair and two gravestones. Jordan has impressed recently in films that didn’t really deserve him (e.g. Fantastic Four). Here he gets to show just how sharp an actor he is, holding his own against Stallone and conveying his character’s journey from a scrappy fighter to a true warrior.

    As with most boxing films, Creed climaxes with a big face-off with a rival boxer. It’s a tried and tested formula, but the result feels well-earned and just right. The character arcs speak for themselves. The closing scene is just brilliant, pretty much encompassing what this film is all about. Stallone’s trust in Coogler has definitely paid off. Creed is most assuredly a knock-out. ****

  • emerb

    Directed by Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”), “Creed” could be described as yet another spin-off, this time focussing on the illegitimate son of heavyweight champ Apollo Creed, who first bounded into the ring in 1976 in the terrific boxing film, “Rocky”. Don’t let that put you off, Coogler takes a look at the Rocky story with a fresh perspective, honouring and building on the formula so that it feels both comfortingly old-fashioned and yet bracingly new. I am not a sports fan but I thought this movie was an irresistible, entertaining and uplifting drama, far better than I had expected and well worth watching.

    Beginning in 1998, we are introduced to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), who has spent much of his childhood bouncing in and out of group homes. His mother, who gave birth to him after an illicit liaison with the the once undisputed heavyweight champion, Apollo, died when he was very young. He’s an angry kid with a natural talent for taking on other kids and an anger he can’t control. One day, a woman he’s never met, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) comes to visit him, revealing that she was married to his late father. She has come to collect him and raise him as if he were her own.

    Back to the present day, Adonis is now a responsible adult with a good job. Naturally, boxing is in his blood and despite not wanting to disappoint his adoptive mother, he cannot resist the lure of the boxing ring and secretly engages in his father’s sport. At one point, we see him fighting in Mexico before returning to his desk in Los Angeles 12 hours later. Even though embracing his father’s legacy would be a significant advantage, he is determined to make it on
    his own and this takes him to Philadelphia, where he tracks down his father’s
    old opponent, the legendary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in order to seek out his guidance. Rocky is running a restaurant and keeping a low profile, he’s finished his boxing career and is reluctant at first. Adonis’s
    insistence eventually wears him down, convincing him to help him train to take on the undefeated champion of the world, British fighter “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (real-life pro Tony Bellew).

    No story like this would be complete without a romantic interest and this role is filled by a pretty young woman, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a gifted soul singer who happens to be losing her hearing. Bianca is struggling with her own issues but she is very much her own person. Romance is born while she works on her career and he on his and sure enough, by the end of the film, she fills that supportive girlfriend-on-the-sidelines role. With their help, Adonis Johnson gets
    his shot at glory and the rousing, climactic fight at the end in which Adonis squares off against Conlon is pretty brutal and visceral – at times, it’s even hard to watch. In one scene, when Adonis takes a rock-hard punch to the jaw, we see him go down in excruciating slow motion— reminding us that every human, even boxers who have learned to take many a punch, is fragile.

    Jordan is a very promising actor
    and his performance here, both emotionally and physically, is impressive.
    He really captures the dedication of the young boxer and conveys the confusion
    that many young people have while forging and accepting their own identities.
    With his charisma and well-chiselled body(!), you can’t help but warm
    to his character. On the outside, a hard, mean, self-isolating man, he’s
    also vulnerable and afraid to reveal who he is to the people around him
    because he may not be able to shut the emotions back down. His truest pal
    is Stallone and the film works so well because of the dynamic at work between
    the two of them. Stallone is wonderful here and brings a vulnerability
    to his role. He’s 69 so naturally he has aged and weakened but he slips
    back into Rocky Balboa perfectly. He doesn’t overplay the emotional material
    and we don’t get to marvel at his strength and toughness but he carries
    off the part of encouraging but gruff and somewhat grizzled observer, with
    pride. Thompson also shines and makes a strong impression as a woman who
    is every bit Adonis’ equal. They have a natural chemistry and their scenes
    together are sweet and tender.

    “Creed” is a fairly typical boxing
    movie. There’s the humble boxer, his mentor, the woman who becomes his
    rock of support and then the famous boxer who gives our hero the boxing
    match chance of a lifetime. Coogler does a good job of trying to break
    through the clichés and making it that bit more interesting, surprising
    and thrilling. It may be easy to predict where the film will end up, but
    that doesn’t reduce our enjoyment along the way. The direction is skilful
    and effective. The training montages are remarkable, Coogler uses close-ups,
    soaring music and frantic editing to show the motion of the boxers, curving
    with their dodges, fast footwork, sudden onslaughts and brute power. “Creed”
    is an emotional, inspiring and energetic movie.