The ‘Rocky’ franchise is an institution unlike any other in the sports-film genre. Starting with the original ‘Rocky’ in 1976, the franchise has seemingly explored every boxing ideology and trope possible in its now seven-flick run. From heavyweight champions of the world and legendary greats to street fighting with tough guys and facing Russian cyborgs; the underdog story, losing the big one and old men re-entering the ring, Rocky Balboa has literally fought every kind of fight he ever could. With a heart on fire and the city of Philadelphia at his back, Rocky has never taken the easy way out either. So naturally, when the time came for Rocky to take the corner again, this time as a trainer for the up-and-coming son of the late Apollo Creed, it made too much sense. What ensues is 133 minutes of traditional Rocky magic meets organic storytelling with new age flair.
So the story goes, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is a troubled juvenile detention lifer with a penchant for picking fights. One day the late Apollo Creed’s widow (Claire Huxtable) comes to take Adonis, the youngest bastard son of Apollo, into her care as her own child. Adonis, unsurprisingly, joins the family trade, taking up boxing in an effort to build his own legacy as a fighter. With little experience outside “off-the-books” bouts in Tijuana, the odds are stacked against Adonis as he trains hard and works his way up to a title-belt fight against Pretty Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellow, an actual professional boxer from Liverpool). With Rocky in his corner and Apollo’s legacy fuelling him, Adonis finds himself and justifies his worth with the bout of a century.
Director Ryan Coogler nails everything in this, his follow up feature, teaming up with leading man Michael B. Jordan after the duo joined for ‘Fruitvale Station’ back in 2013. The effects, especially the unique up-close-and-personal boxing scenes that get right up in the boxers’ chests. are quite visually stunning. The intense training scenes, from ghost boxing to sparring to bag work, are world class. ‘Creed’ simply exudes a pristine balance of opulence with the inherently grungy nature of professional boxing.
After seeing ‘Southpaw’ in August, I was certain a better boxing movie could not be made this year. Boy was I wrong. ‘Creed’ takes the flashy, glamorous modernisation of boxing movies, mixing it with technically debonair training sequences, a classic peppy ‘Rocky’ soundtrack with some added hip-hop flair, and a powerful storyline that finds you differently (in a good way) than you could have imagined. ‘Creed’ takes the cake not only for the best boxing movie of 2015, but the best boxing movie of the last decade. If you liked ‘Southpaw’, you’re going to love ‘Creed’ – a sincerely decadent boxing film that fights until the final bell.
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson