Sylvester Stallone has been playing Rocky Balboa for forty years. It’s a credit to the almost-70-year-old actor that he has found a way to breathe new life into the iconic character in Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky franchise. In fact, his efforts even earned him an Oscar nomination this year, the third of his career (the first two were for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for the first Rocky in ’76).
In Creed, Rocky is lured back into the world of boxing by Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson, (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s longtime opponent and friend, Apollo Creed. Donnie is his father’s son and the urge to fight has burned inside him since childhood. This urge leads him from a palatial home in LA to the grey streets of Philadelphia to seek out Rocky, his unofficial ‘uncle’, and convince him to be his trainer.
Cue all the ingredients for the perfect boxing movie: a string of rough and brutish opponents (each one more challenging than the last), a sassy love interest, several training montages (including some unconventional exercises, like catching chickens), a disapproving mother who chimes in with her support just when it’s needed the most, the challenges along the way, the self-doubt, the desire to prove oneself worthy in the ring. It’s all there and it’s all been done countless times before, but that’s why we watch these movies.
Without spoiling it, there’s a satisfying nod to the ‘Rocky steps’ sequence from the original, and Bill Conti’s memorable score is paid tribute to through modern arrangements.
Despite its lack of originality, Creed feels genuine and likeable. It’s very slow to start but once those training montages hit, it’s entertaining and energetic. The film’s crowning glory is the editing and camerawork of the final fight scene. In the ring, the camera glides and circles through and around the two fighters, dancing in close and then backing up for air. The angles and movement ensure that you feel the full force of every blow.
Review Score: THREE STARS OUT OF FIVE.
The DVD release of Creed includes a short documentary called “Becoming Adonis,” in which some cast and crew including Jordan, Stallone and writer/director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) are interviewed about the film-making process. It largely focuses on Jordan’s year-long preparation for his role via a strict diet and workout regime, but more interestingly, the short looks at the process of choreographing and capturing the fight scenes for the film.
Special Features Score: THREE STARS OUT OF FIVE.
Creed is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.