Creed

My friend Tommy is the biggest Stallone and Rocky fan in Australia, towards the top of his bucket list is to run to the top of those infamous stairs in Philledilphia wearing grey tracks and blasting that famous Rocky song. I think he actually asked me if he could be my partner to the CREED screening before shooting had even finished. And so it was that we attended the press screening this week, him to prostrate himself in front of the screen containing his legend and me to drool, fantasise and stare in awe at a sweaty, muscly, mostly shirtless Adonis aka Michael B. Jordan – ironically playing Adonis Johnson/ Creed, the son of one of Rocky’s biggest rivals and friends. CREED releases this Thursday Nov 26th in Australia from the peeps at Roadshow Films, it is rated M and is the longest of all seven films under the Rocky umbrella clocking in at 132mins.

 

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Creed | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Movie Poster Image

 

BY JASON KING

Can you believe this is the seventh film in the franchise, the original ROCKY released nearly forty years ago. Rocky I to IV were all gloriously brilliant in there 80s way and we shall ignore the others because they were shite. I expected this to be crap, I was attending for Tommy and also well, for Jordan, but I loved CREED.

Back in Apollo Creed’s day at the top of his game he had an affair, from this affair a son was born, he never met his father as Creed died before he was born. Not long after Adonis Creed was born his mother died and Adonis spent quite a few years with foster homes and in juvenile detention, always getting into fights (as if he was a born fighter with his father’s genes). Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) decided to adopt her husband’s bastard child and raised him as her own. But she loathes the fighting and the dangers involved because her husband died from it so while being an executive by weekday it appears Adonis secretly fights illegally in Mexico on the weekends because he needs to fight.

He gets promoted at work and resigns knowing he cannot be stuck in an office so decides to move to Philadelphia and seek out his father’s old friend and opponent, Rocky Balboa, and convince him to train him. He lives his life under his mother’s name, Johnson and keeps the Creed name a secret.

 

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Creed | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) Ringside

 

Rocky is old, he runs his Italian restaurant (appropriately named) “Adrian” and lives a simple life, he doesn’t want to be involved in the boxing life (you see the cliche here), some pestering and you know he is going to be training Adonis. One thing leads to another and the boxing world is on again.

For a film living in the Rocky universe it is bloody well done. It is from director and scribe Ryan Coogler who gives us a story and film worthy of the name, it homages the originals and the love of Creed and allows Rocky to shine as the mentor and it brings it into the modern day. The story is just damn clever and has a certain nostaligic feel to it, it literally feels like it could have happened just after Creed died back in Rocky IV. Coogler is a recent fave of mine after his superb FRUITVALE STATION, also starring Jordan, and I will be looking forward to more of his work.

Stallone is brilliant as Balboa, no prep needed, he is Rocky, just older. He fits into the older Rocky mentor role like an old boxer stringing on the gloves again. For me this is Stallone’s best performance since COP LAND (1997) – it is well underplayed keeping that humour and humility shining. His pairing with Michael B. Jordan was a stroke of genius and it actually makes for a pretty decent buddy movie.

 

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Creed | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Adonis Johnson/ Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) training

 

I love Jordan, besides the incredible looks and that body he is a talented young actor who has a strong screen presence. He was being mentored by Stallone in more than character. Great chemistry between the two and the entire created backstory of Adonis Creed was not only believable, it was a strong stand alone and something that bridges the Rocky and Creed worlds. I applaud it. The level of fitness Jordan must have attained in this role is astounding, watching him work out was reminiscent of Rocky in earlier movies. I loved seeing Jordan chase chickens, and the scene with Rocky and Creed on the speed balls together put a big smile on the entire cinema’s face.

Special mention to Tessa Thompson as Bianca, Adonis’s enchanting songstress predictable love interest, if only partners fell into my life like this the world would be a much better place. Thompson holds her own as a great counter to Adonis and will be a great partner should the franchise continue, her story being a singer who is going deaf will bring a great character arc to continue with. And I have to mention, it is so good to see Phylicia Rashad (as Mary Ann Creed) onscreen again. After all the accusations and truth coming out about Bill Cosby on and off set on THE COSBY SHOW it is nice to see Mrs Cosby getting some positive vibes, she has some great scenes with a TV and has a great motherly presence for Adonis’s adoptive mother.

 

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Creed | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Adonis Johnson/ Creed (Michael B. Jordan)

 

Now it is not all perfect, the fight scenes were lacking in the epicness of the earlier Rocky films, and the entire fights were sketchy and needed more choreography and stronger direction. They lacked conviction, in the first fight with Rocky as his coach Creed is losing bad, Rocky says a few words to him and then bam he wins, I wasn’t overly impressed with that, Coogler is better than that. I will say it was impressive seeing the first fight appear to be one take though.

Then there was the final fight, ever so slightly reminiscent of the Ivan Drago fight, on purpose maybe? But much much weaker and again lacking in conviction and motive, the audience really did not know what Creed was fighting for, until he says it a few rounds from the finish, then cue Rocky music (Tommy squealed and got goosebumps) then some smackdown.

There was also one other scene that really bugged me, the second exercise training montage that must be part of every Rocky movie. Creed is running the Philadelphia streets in required grey tracksuit and gets the local street biker kids following him and doing wheelies, it is this uplifting scene with crescendo music and it ends outside where Rocky is upstairs, with Creed belting out all these “I am awesome” kind of things but vocals are silenced and it is the music that is meant to tell you how powerful and pumped Creed is but it was so wanky and unnecessary and incredibly 80s it has just annoyed me since I saw it, it lacked the humility the audience had grown used to from Adonis. I cringed.

 

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Creed | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Adonis Johnson/ Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Bianca (Tessa Thompson)

 

CREED while a great story with a great cast is also predictable and cliched to the hilt, but it is what it is, it is a Rocky movie, the seventh in a franchise, you know what is going to happen in nearly every boxing movie. Exercise montage, must lose first or second fight, must have a comeback, must find a love interest, must train hard, must fall out with love interest but be saved by her before the last battle. While I say predictable and cliched please note I did not say bad, it is like buying a beautiful old jacket from an op shop. It is a tried and tested, well worn jacket, but to you it is also new. Creed is just like this and felt good watching it. I laughed a lot, and I cried a bit and the script manipulated me enough to have some emotional moments.

It isn’t as good as SOUTHPAW as a boxing movie, but as a ROCKY, or now CREED, movie it is two thumbs up from me. I hope it makes some decent coin, I do see this as a franchise re-imagining, reboot, side boot? There is a definite ending open to a CREED 2 and Stallone has already mentioned he wants to be involved in future installments.

 

4 Pops

 

 

Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).