Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellow
Director: Ryan Coolger
Last year George Miller breathed new life into the rapidly groan-inducing movie-franchise-reboots with his art-tastic two hour injection of additional Max, tearing his way through doubters as a spike-laden hot-rod (with shredding guitar player option) rips through leather-clad supporting artistes. Surely paving the way for more credible prequels, sequels, remakes and restarts, we welcome to the stage Fruitvale Station writer/director Ryan Coogler with a Stallone approved script to resuscitate one of the most scraped barrels of movie history. Up step Rocky Balboa (for the seventh time).
Picking up in a remand centre for adolescent sluggers, we find a young Adonis Johnson the product of legend Apollo Creeds pre-death infidelity, being introduced to Creed’s widow Mary Ann, who rescues the youngster from custody and takes him back to the family home and Creeds financial legacy. Skipping fifteen or so years ahead, we see a newly promoted Adonis (Jordan) working in a financial institution while spending his weekends going toe to toe with hefty Mexicans in bars across the border. His adoptive mother is proud of his office based achievements but guess what, young Adonis wants a shot at being a pro fighter like his dear old man and promptly gives up his career, the financial stability of the Creed home and moves to a small unfurnished apartment in Philidelphia to track down his pop’s oldest foe cum friend Rocky Balboa.
What follows is pretty much what you would expect, Balboa refuses to train him (‘I don’t do dat no more’), Adonis is a little wet behind the ears, gets battered a couple of times, Rocky has a change of heart, trains Adonis up as the youngster struggles with the Creed legacy and his own identity, he finds a girl, then manages to get a shot at the world title in his second professional bout.
The fight scenes are choreographed perfectly, at no point do you see any chinks in Jordon’s fighting performance armour and the pace picks up significantly during the bouts. Solid performances by both Jordan and Stallone give some credibility to the often stiff script and Tessa Thompson does her best as Jordan’s love interest Bianca, a musician living downstairs with a degenerative hearing issue (one of many unexplored and seemingly unnecessary character angles). But it’s Liverpudlian pro boxer Tony Bellow who shows himself to be the ace in the pack, making his acting debut as Creed’s sarcastic quick tempered ring nemesis ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, who seems to slip into the role as easy as a bruised fist into a training mitt.
A major plot shift in the second half of the movie feels rushed and frustratingly inadequate, the unsatisfactory results giving an impression of an afterthought that should have been further investigated or excluded altogether.
The narrative is clunky in places and the subtler elements spoon-fed with awkward dialogue. As expected with any Rocky movie, franchise reboot or not, a healthy serving of feel-good cheese is sprinkled throughout (street kids on quad bikes circling a jumping Creed, fist in the air, anyone?) which soon starts to irritate. Scenes sometimes feels rushed, which is no mean feat for a movie well over the two-hour mark with one relatively simplistic plotline.
Creed is a movie which initially shows promise but rapidly neglects on its potential, consistently failing in its attempts to get under the skin of its conceivably interesting and complex characters.
5 / 10