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Review - Creed

By midlandsmovies, Jan 15 2016 04:33PM

CREED (2016) Dir. Ryan Coogler

Having seen the legendary actor Sly Stallone wax lyrical about his career during “An Audience with” event at Sheffield Town Hall in early 2015, one of the things that stood out was his assertion that he was leaving the UK having just filmed part of the new Rocky film. Already having doubts for the seventh (!) instalment, he didn’t allay my fears when he said he and his entourage were returning to Philadelphia after completing scenes at Everton’s Goodison Park football ground (!)

So far so weird but what could this entry cover that six films could not, you ask? Well, after Rocky Balboa which covered the final fight by Stallone, the aging actor has wisely put himself to one side avoiding a pensioner-aged return to the ring. So, we pick up with Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan), who is the wayward offspring of Apollo Creed who after stints in juvenile facilities is adopted by Anne Marie (Phylicia Rashād). She's Apollo’s widow and although she is not Adonis’ mum she chastises him after he leaves his comfortable office job to pursue his dreams of becoming a boxer. Tracking down his father’s old friend/rival, Rocky in Philly, Adonis convinces the retired heavyweight to train him up.

Adonis also begins a relationship with up and coming singer Bianca (a terrific Tessa Thompson) whose artistic temperament contrasts with his workmanlike exercise regime but the unlikely couple find solace in their differences helped by great performances from both actors.

Later Rocky has to confront his own problems with his broken body and deal with medical issues that begins another kind of fight outside the sporting world. Facing issues of race, life, love, mortality and relationships, Creed is an unusually deep film and by far the best film since Stallone’s debut. Michael B Jordan removes any memory of the frankly awful Fantastic Four with a heartfelt performance that is both bruising yet complex with a wonderful honest delivery.

Hints of nostalgia are littered within Creed as past characters and events are mentioned and whilst there is no over-the-top 80s cheese (Rocky IV) the film can’t help itself from doing a musical training montage. Still, it’s done with panache and a subtleness the other franchise films were nowhere near. And still it’s Michael B Jordan who holds the film together with a great central performance showcasing how Adonis wants to make it on his own – where even a mention of his father’s legacy instils violent outbursts.

However it is that infamous name which allows him a shot at world light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan. The strong accent from the scouse antagonist was quite a shock to hear in such a large Hollywood film but made a nice change from the norm and their rivalry is a believable mish-mash of cultures and backgrounds.

With Stallone turning in his best performance in 20 years, we see something we have not really seen from him before - vulnerability. The curl of his lip as he recounts sad stories from his life brought a lump to my throat. Stallone has already won Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes and received an Oscar nomination for this role too and in many ways the film mirrors his true life tale as well, as he comes back full circle to rejuvenate a career fallen from grace.

For the fans, all the ingredients of the Rocky formula are there with a focus on the characters you have grown up with but the drama is so well crafted there is plenty for those who know nothing about the journey so far. This means that Creed is a filmic feat, an emphatic return to form with an individual voice from director Coogler that amounts to a knock-out triumph.

8/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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