Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone shine in this terrific update of the Rocky franchise from highly-rated rookie director Ryan Coogler.
After the steady decline of the boxing drama-series that made Stallone famous, he comes back with a bang – and hopefully the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after this deliciously understated turn – with Jordan sensationally recovering from last year’s disastrous Fantastic Four to show he is one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming talents as well.
Bored by his behind-a-desk job, Adonis Johnson (Jordan) is prize-fighting in Mexico, unable to unshackle himself from his family heritage – being the illegitimate son of arguably the world’s most famous boxer Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers in the first four Rocky films).
His father – who had an affair with Johnson’s now-deceased mother just prior to getting killed by Drago in the events of Rocky IV – is still begrudgingly a heavy influence on his life, and Johnson decides to throw away a promising career and disengage himself from his surrogate mother (and Apollo’s real-wife Mary Anne, played by The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad) – to try and make it in the boxing world.
He leaves the bright lights and luxurious life in LA to track down Apollo’s friend, former rival and fellow ex-World Heavyweight Champion of the world, Rocky Balboa (Stallone), to train and mentor him in Philadelphia.
Along the way Johnson – always trying to keep his identity under wraps – gets romantically involved with wannabe musician Bianca (the promising Tessa Thompson), but when his true identity (being a ‘Creed’) comes to light, he gets propelled into a publicity-laden bout against World Light Heavyweight Champion ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), who needs a quick payday match before he spends time in jail.
The ‘Scouse’ champion – who in the movie supports Sly’s favourite team Everton – nicely adds a British touch to proceedings, along with Graham McTavish’s manager.
And why this may sound suspiciously like the way the Apollo v Rocky match reared its head in the original Rocky, it steers enough way from these obvious similarities – particularly when you factor in the curveball of Balboa’s side-story arc that really tests his relationship with his young protégé.
Under the guidance of Coogler – who unsurprisingly has just snagged the Black Panther gig for Marvel – the over two hour-plus film never outstays its welcome, and the boxing scenes (with Coogler’s clever use of camera work and improvisation) are far more realistic than the Rocky films ever were.
It’s really no surprise a sequel has already been given the green light with all the ingredients meshing together so well here – and along with the right amount of nostalgic nods packs a terrific punch that will leave you delightfully groggy.
Gavin Miller[youtube id=”Uv554B7YHk4″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
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Cast: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish, Ritchie Coster, Gabe Rosado & Andre Ward
Running Time: 2 Hrs 13 Mins
Director: Ryan Coogler