Creed - This Rocky 7 Rocks
Dir: Ryan Coogler
Starring Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompso, Tony Bellew, Phylicia Rashad
For his follow up to the sensational Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler has reteamed with leading man Jordan for an unusual form of semi-sequel meets franchise reinvention. In many ways, Creed is definitely an unplanned Rocky 7 with the now aged Italian Stallion reduced to the role of surrogate Mickey, training the bastard offspring of Apollo Creed. Said son is named Adonis, but prefers to be known as Donny and uses his mother’s surname of Johnson. So, on one level, he is Don Johnson! Another thing we weren’t expecting from this.
Firmly commercial – and very satisfying as such – Creed is still something of a curious hybrid. It completely embraces the Rocky history, yet creates fully rounded and well developed new characters. It plays almost like a remake in its final act, but still manages to feel distinctly fresh. Part of that is the attention to detail Coogler offers his characters. Jordan may well finally deliver the star-making turn here that he has hinted at in just everything he’s done. (Yes, we’re still ignoring FF.) He is quite brilliant and blends perfectly with Thompson, the two of them delivering what is for once a thoroughly believable romantic relationship.
Similarly, Coogler displays an extremely strong visual style, again something only hinted at in his debut movie. Here he goes for long, sustained takes, that not only fully engage but which, during the fight sequences, are at times quite breath taking. Or breath-taking-away, even. He adopts a different style for the film’s three main fights – hovering outside the ring for the first, employing the more conventional, brutally edited trad-Rocky style of the third and final. But for the second fight he follows Creed and his opponent into the ring for what appears to be one remarkably choreographed single take.
Special mention should also go to the movie’s superb score by Ludwig Goransson. Although you can’t help but spend the movie waiting for that classic theme to show up – when those horns finally blare out it is a moment of pure genius.
But as much as the film seeks to reinvent a cinematic icon, it is that icon who ultimately owns Creed. It’s easy to forget that Sylvester Stallone was once both an Oscar nominated actor and writer for the first Rocky. Now, after inhabiting the role on and off for nearly 40 years, the man delivers the performance of his life, bringing a distinct eloquence to a part he has literally grown old in. His all but guaranteed Best Supporting Oscar nom may well be led by sentiment, but it is genuinely deserved nonetheless. After all those years, the man still know how to pack a punch.
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