You wait years for a boxing film and two come along at once. After the recent, well directed Southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal, we now return to Sylvester Stallone’s baby and the Rocky franchise. Although you could argue, given the subject matter and title, that this is a potential spin-off to a new franchise, wouldn’t surprise me.
Anyway, Stallone returns as Rocky Balboa, the ex champion of the world now running a restaurant in Philadelphia. Meanwhile Apollo Creed’s wife Mary-Anne, played by Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) learns of a son he had out of wedlock and tracks him down to a juvenile prison were he’s busy beating kids up. Adonis Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic 4, Fruitvale Station), is this son. He grows up in a nice big house with a nice well paid job, but secretly all he wants to do is box, of course.
Johnson/Creed tracks down Balboa and convinces him to train him, obviously, which eventually Balboa agrees to. Cue the first problem with the film; there are way too many training montages, I mean, how many do you need in one film to get the message across that he’s training? This isn’t helped by the second problem with the film, it’s a tad too long at just over two hours.
So, outside of training sequences, we actually, for the first half of the film at least, have a very nicely put together boxing film and outside of the ring storyline. Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Aaron Covington (first writing credit) are the writers and have done a nice job. In fact it’s possibly let down when the fighting starts although it’s hard to complain when you know what you’re getting with a Rocky film. Toe-to-toe boxing the likes of which you never really see in real fights, particularly amongst the heavier fighters. Fights that would have been stopped these days as there’s so much blood and injuries.
It would be easy to dismiss this film as just another in the franchise because of the boxing scenes which are just unrealistic (if you saw the recent Tyson Fury defeat of Wladimir Klitschko you’ll know what I mean), in fact I did for a while as I’m a fan of the sport. However, put that aside and you’re left with a film that, despite me thinking I was going to hate it, I really didn’t, the human elements of the story are very well done, if not a little obvious.
Creed, after moving to Philadelphia to find Balboa, meets a girl, a singer called Bianc, played by Tessa Thompson (Selma, Dear White People), who is going slowly deaf. Creed also has to make it up with Mary-Anne who obviously wasn’t happy that he wanted to start boxing again. He doesn’t really do the latter, but manages to win her over anyway. Then there’s the fight that Balboa has to go through, though I’ll let you discover that one.
The big fight, there’s always a big fight in these films, comes in the form of a match with the current light heavyweight champion of the world ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, played by actual boxer Tony Bellew who has a professional record of 24-2-1. They fight in Liverpool, England, actually at the home of Everton Football Club of which Bellew is an avid fan and comes out to his fights playing the same music as Everton play when their players enter the pitch (Z Cars if you’re interested).
This goes as you’d expect, no-one gives Creed a chance, they go toe-to-toe knocking seven shades of shit out of each other and then. Well it can only go one of two ways and I’m saying nothing about which way it goes, only, good on the writers.
I didn’t think I’d like this film and I’m glad it surprised me. The boxing scenes aren’t quite as well directed as Southpaw but Ryan Coogler (who also directed Fruitvale Station) does a good job with the rest of the film and the boxing scenes are still fun to watch. But it’s the human element that makes the film and it’s a good thing the fighting doesn’t take you away from it.
Creed is out in UK cinemas on the 15th January 2016.