The seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed, features impressive performances backed up by a stellar visual experience by director Ryan Coogler.
Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed, tries to make his own way in the boxing world without relying on his father’s legacy.
Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) struggles to be taken seriously as the son of Apollo Creed in his hometown of Los Angeles so he participates in underground boxing fights across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. After being rejected and humiliated once more at his gym he decides to move to Philadelphia to be trained by Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
The plot is simple and familiar to fans of the Rocky films. The boxer must train to beat the opponent, winning the girl in the process. Unfortunately this, along with a few other predictable plot elements, brings down the standard of the film. The script was most likely written with the intention of pleasing lifelong Rocky fans, yet simultaneously attracting a new fan base. However the performances in this simple film are part of a larger machine that will impress all audiences.
Sly Stallone, who you may associate with First Blood, Cliffhanger or even Judge Dredd if you were unlucky enough to see it, puts on a top class performance worthy of his Golden Globe win and Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This surprise standout performance does not outshine the leading man. Michael B. Jordan, who found his feet in The Wire twelve years ago, is now a highly sought after actor, starring in Fruitvale Station, Fantastic Four and Chronicle. This performance absolutely proves his worth.
In a cinema packed with film reviewers and boxers from local clubs, I’ll not tell you which of the two I spotted sniffling and wiping their eyes.
Performance and plot aside, the two people who make this film work are the director and cinematographer. Ryan Coogler did a fantastic job of making a ‘Creed film’, not a ‘Rocky film’. He is clearly influenced heavily by Raging Bull (Martin Scorcese) and instead keeps the Rocky influence to a minimum. This rescues the film from simply being a rehash of an older film in the series. The boxing fights are intense and bloody. Sylvester Stallone shared a video on social media from behind the scenes of the final fight, showing Michael B. Jordan taking real, controlled punches to the face. This adds a sense of danger to the fights, bringing the audience right into the ring. The person who has unfortunately not received the credit they deserve for this film is cinematographer Maryse Alberti. The film is stunning. The fights are lit to perfection and the tight framings of Adonis keep the audience emotionally connected to him start to finish.
She also plays her part in channeling Raging Bull into the film. As Adonis leaves his dressing room for a big fight she follows him into the ring and through the fight all in a single, unbroken shot. Without using CGI or editing tricks (we’re looking at you Birdman!), the entire fight is perfectly choreographed onscreen creating one of the most realistic boxing fights you may ever see in a film.
The work from Coolger, Alberti, Johnson and Stallone create a film that is perfectly balanced in emotion and drama, holding viewers on the edge of their seat, internally chanting “Creed”, not “Rocky”.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Genre: Drama, Sport
Running Time: 133 minutes
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