2015 / Director. Ryan Coogler.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The 2006 film ROCKY BALBOA seemed like a fitting end to a long and enduring legacy. It was a respectable film and gave the Italian Stallion one last triumph. Considering that the original film depicted a man past his prime, it was a tough sell convincing us that Stallone's beloved character had more gas in his tank... but at the age of 60, with the combination of supreme fitness and an assortment of muscle enhancements, he stepped up to the plate and punched out a sincere and heartfelt performance. And so was the end of the ROCKY series...
Picking up almost a decade later (my God) CREED enters the ring, building a strong new character-arch upon the foundations already laid. Yes it serves as a sequel, but more importantly it tells a new story, albeit a familiar one. Adonis Creed is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Adonis spent his childhood being hand-balled between orphanages and juvenile detention centres until Apollo's wife tracked him down and took him in. Despite being raised with privilege and wealth he carried the burden of being the family secret, and with a raging inferno of anger burning away inside, we see him abandon everything so that he can step from out of his fathers shadow and prove his worth. With no professional fighting experience, he struggles to find a trainer who will take him seriously and so he turns to the one man who might feel obliged; Rocky Balboa.
Of course the story is contrived and all too familiar, and there's a huge sense of deja-vu, but the character development is strong and the journey that Adonis and Rocky undertake is deeply emotive. We have one character at the end of his road while the other is beginning and with the triumphs and failures of the past guiding the way the film offers a showcase of performance & endurance from it's players.
The lines blur between Stallone and Balboa. He is so in-tune with the character he created over forty years ago that stepping back into Rocky’s shoes is as simple as tying the laces. His performance is heartfelt and tortured and he still has that natural ability to deliver words of wisdom, ignorance and whim within a single breath. I become hypnotised by his on-screen presence to the point that I overlook whatever shortcomings the film also suffers, and there’s a real comfort for me in that.
Michael B Jordan of THE WIRE and FRUITVALE STATION fame bounds on to the screen with a ferocity that has been missing from the franchise for several instalments. He channels the same aggression that Carl Weather’s did in the first two films, but in a much more serious way. His character lacks the humour and frivolity of Apollo, which sets him apart and solidifies CREED as a serious point of evolution in the series.
There are a lot of faults within the script, though that is not to say it is a weak one. At times it feels as though the story is being advanced much too hastily and important character developments are skimmed over in favour of a tighter running time. Fortunately the story is fluent enough that these indiscretions are easily overlooked. The film also suffered from a few indulgences in attempting to create familiarity, and while I was manipulated by the nostalgic throwbacks, I can’t help but feel that the film would have had more impact if Adonis Creed’s story were told without the sentimental trickery. And there's also an unnecessary use of freeze-framed stat-cards that serve no purpose at all.
Nevertheless CREED is a strong addition to the franchise and an excellent introduction to an all-new series. I am expecting to see CREED 2 over the next few years, because lets face it, why develop a new character if they don’t intend to explore it? They can have my money now. An aisle seat will be fine.