Creed (2015)

“One step. One punch. One round at a time.”

Pardon the deliberate pun usage here, but Creed absolutely rocks!

The seventh entry into the Rocky franchise features a well-worn premise and replicates many of the series’ narrative beats, but it does so with a stylish flair and propulsive energy that makes it infectiously inspiring and triumphant entertainment.

Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) directs one hell of a film about Adonis Johnson (the sensational Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, as he learns about legacy, purpose and family. In his corner and out of the shadows is the man himself, Mr. Rocky Balboa in a true and swaggering return to form for Sylvester Stallone.

It’s a role that reminds us of the talent that Stallone still possesses when he’s not being Expendable. His outstanding and understated transformation from fighter to mentor is full of the warmth, nurturing and rich pathos necessary to make him the the ideal surrogate father figure to have in your corner of the ring. His monologue about “life passing him by” is already garnering him deserved awards praise.

Jordan’s Adonis is a suitably complex underdog. Raw, talented, thoughtful, but with a short fuse and an obvious chip on his shoulder. Both in and outside the ring, Jordan delivers an intense and rousing performance. You cannot help but cheer “Baby Creed” on from the cinema auditorium. You want him to win. This is powerful cinema.

At the heart of the film, but never with a political slant, Creed is about a young black man’s struggle with feelings of inadequacy and abandonment. The Rocky mythology has been remixed into a contemporary setting, and its minority perspective is refreshing and vital.

Even though in reality, the sport may be being suffocated out by the rise of MMA and the like, the boxing in the film has never been better. The training montages are electric and handsomely photographed. These testosterone-fused bouts made me question my choice of beverage and snacks that I purchased before the film.

Creed’s first legitimate fight is also captured in a stunning one-shot that perfectly builds the requisite intensity to develop Adonis’ rise as a character. The whole sequence felt like a loving and reminiscent shoutout to Raging Bull.

Sure the film has a formulaic and predictable plot, and the love story with Tessa Thompson is a little underserved, but Creed remains an intelligent, emotionally charged and thoroughly entertaining bout, that will urge you to fist pump at least once or twice with exuberant glee before its conclusion.

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