Creed, review: ‘Intriguingly credible’

09:00 08 January 2016

Creed. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

Creed. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Sylvester Stallone is happy to play second fiddle in this well-considered reboot of the Rocky series.

Here’s an odd proposition for you – a serious Rocky film. There hasn’t been one of them for four decades, maybe ever. A serious, stripped down Rocky film is like a back to basics Fast & Furious where they spend most of the film tuning up their motors – in a montage – and talking through their motivation for the big street race on Saturday, rather than pulling off outrageous heists and crashing cars from one Dubai skyscraper to the next. Is that a F&F film you need to see?

The angle for Rocky 7 is to focus on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed (Rocky’s opponent who was killed in the ring by Dolph Lundgren’s Drago in Rocky IV) and his attempts to make it as a boxer. Adonis (Jordan) walks away from a life of luxury and roughs it in Rocky’s home town of Philadelphia where he tries to enlist the former champion’s help. Everybody is offended that he is departing from the prescribed boxing narrative – poor kid from the streets who fights because he has no other way out. His is more of a Batman Begins journey.

Creed is an intriguing attempt to translate cred into money. Director Coogler made his mark with the low budget Fruitvale Station. Being a hit at the Sundance film festival is one thing but Coogler wanted a real hit and he initiated this project and wrote the story, which is basically a remake of the original film. He brings a low key (comparative) realism to his Rocky film; though in the middle he has one great grandstanding sequence, a boxing match that is shot to look like one continuous take, the camera moving around getting right into the action and swooping around trying to capture the range of emotions.

Stallone has a producer’s credit but it isn’t really his show. Having crafted, against all odds, a dignified exit for his favourite character in Rocky Balboa, here he is overseeing an African American appropriation of his creation. You may object to seeing him pushed into a back up role, but Stallone seems content: he just loves playing Rocky.

Rating: 3/5 stars

A review of The Hateful Eight will appear on halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com over the weekend.

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