The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Review: Creed (UK Cert 12A)

Michael B. Jordan reunites with director Ryan Coogler (after the powerful drama Fruitvale Station) for Creed, the next film in the Rocky franchise.

However, rather than focusing on Rocky himself, Creed focuses on Adonis 'Donny' Johnson (Jordan), the son of the legendary Apollo Creed. When we first meet Donny, he's working in an office but travelling to Tijuana on the weekends to take part in boxing matches. Realising that's where his true passion lies, Donny quits his job and moves to Philadelphia to start training as a boxer. Donny wants to be trained by the best and so seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who is now retired and running a restaurant. Eventually Rocky agrees to mentor Donny and this unlikely pairing takes Donny to the fight of his career.

I've never been a massive fan of the Rocky films; they've been entertaining enough but they've never really stuck with me (to the point where I had to be reminded of a major plot point from a previous Rocky film as we were sat in the cinema). However, Creed is a real pulse-racing, edge-of-your-seat movie which I enjoyed a whole lot more than I was expecting to.

Essentially, it's a soft reboot of Rocky. It takes all the beats of the original film and uses them in a slightly different way (or puts a slightly different twist on them). This is no bad thing; it gives fans of the previous films a feeling of recognition, whilst making it fresh for first-time viewers. It's like Star Wars: The Force Awakens but for a sports movie.

Jordan is just brilliant in the lead role. He's an absolute firecracker on screen, quick to anger, incredibly powerful yet vulnerable as well. The conflict of being associated with the name Creed is central; does he want to trade on his old man's name or make it on his own? Is he worthy to take the name Creed? You absolutely root for him throughout. His relationship with musician Bianca (a lovely supporting turn by Tessa Thompson who isn't just window-dressing) adds another element and some of his interactions with Stallone are just dynamite. 

What can I say about Stallone's performance? Well, firstly, the awards hype he's been getting is absolutely deserved. The way Rocky is used in this film is exactly how a supporting role should be used; support the main character but have enough of a storyline of your own without overshadowing the lead. Stallone has played Rocky off and on for the best part of forty years and he knows the character inside and out. He's funny, he's wise, he's incredibly moving (yep, he made me cry). 

Coogler's direction is slick, and there are a couple of really cool technical tricks he employs. The fight sequences are particularly strong (which you'd expect in a boxing movie: one of Donny's first fights (a two-round bout) is filmed in one continuous take, bobbing and weaving around the fighters expertly without pausing for breath. The long walk from the dressing room to the ring in the final fight- which takes place at Goodison Park (home ground of Everton FC)- is another great moment. 

If you know the Rocky films, you'll get a lot out of Creed (there's a couple of nice nods to the past). However, it's not absolutely essential. Creed is accessible, high-octane, powerful and a whole load of fun. I loved it. 

Rating: 4 out of 5


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