Frances Winston loved this film, where the baton is passed on to another fighter in the Rocky tradition
Directed by: Ryan Coogler – Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
The Rocky movie franchise is hugely beloved and fans have been following the fortunes of underdog turned champion, Rocky Balboa, for almost 40 years now.
However, time marches on, and despite fans thirst for more tales of the Italian Stallion, the reality is that Sylvester Stallone is now almost 70, and while he looks great, it would be stretching even the most liberal dramatic licence to have him play a young vibrant prize-fighter again.
However, that is no reason to keep a good, money-making franchise down, and rather than put it to sleep or reboot it, director and co-writer, Coogler, has come up with a plausible way to keep the Rocky legend alive, without short-changing the fans.
Step forward Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (Jordan) the love-child of Rocky’s one-time nemesis-turned-friend, Apollo Creed! A wild youth who is spending time in a youth facility, he is taken in by his father’s widow, who raises him as her own.
Unfortunately, she is vehemently opposed to boxing, having watched Adonis die in the ring (in Rocky IV fact-fans) so when he decides to follow in his footsteps, Donnie finds himself out on his own.
After failing to get into an elite boxing academy, he seeks out Rocky (Stallone of course) and asks him to become his trainer. Initially reluctant, he eventually agrees to mentor the young fighter, and the two bond as they aim to take Donnie to the top on his terms, despite the expectations and unyielding pressure of his parentage.
Stallone recently won the Best Supporting actor Golden Globe for his performance in this, and if there is any justice he will win the Oscar. Maybe it is because he isn’t the main focus of the film so he could relax into the role a bit more, but he is truly wonderful here. Jordan is also amazing as his protégé. He is filling some big boots, and he does it with aplomb. The pair have a wonderful on-screen chemistry, and they have a few scenes that will move even the hardest viewers and critics to a few tears.
This doesn’t stray too far from its roots, and the setting, cinematography, and even the story are all comfortable and familiar. And although there is a thumping new soundtrack, the classic Rocky overture still slips in there, and I defy anyone not to feel a little thrill when they hear it.
This very much harks back to the original Rocky movie, and feels like a genuine passing of the baton. It has all the humanity and warmth that the first movie had, and it is completely engaging from start to finish. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, you will enjoy Creed, and, for anyone who is, you will be buoyed up by what is a worthy continuation of the Rocky saga (unlike 2006’s Rocky Balboa, which we’ll say nothing else about).
This is a wonderful piece of cinema that relies on storytelling and performances rather than CGI and effects, and is all the better for it.
In cinemas January 15th