Creed film review: This Rocky sequel has just the right amount of nostalgia

James Luxford
Sylvester Stallone coaches Michael B. Jordan in Creed

Dir. Ryan Coogler | ★★★★☆

Forty years on, Sylvester Stallone’s ultimate underdog is back. Creed follows Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, as he battles the shadow of a father he never knew and the weight of expectation to embark on a boxing career, trained by his father’s most famous opponent, Rocky Balboa.

Shaky cameras, hip-hop and an incredible ‘one-shot boxing match’ put director Ryan Coogler’s (Fruitvale Station) stamp firmly on proceedings.

He frames characters in cavernous mansions and empty restaurants, underlining the fleeting nature of fame, and little touches show that Creed Jr’s fight is as much within himself as in the ring. However, this is more than clever camera work, as Coogler combines just enough old with the new.

He knows the affection in which these films are held, and so while the story goes in a fresh, interesting direction, a nod to the past is never far away, from a training montage to that famous fanfare.

Jordan’s charisma shines through in the lead; a mixture of toughness and vulnerability that’s easy to root for. He’s done a great service by Stallone, who never overwhelms the story.

The ageing champ faces old age and mortality with heart-wrenching dignity, in a quietly remarkable performance that benefits as much from the director’s lingering shots as it does rousing, ‘never give up’ speeches.

Selma actress Tessa Thompson is also impressive as Jordan’s love interest, even if parts of her story don’t seem to go anywhere. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of real-life boxer Tony Bellew, who’s awkward and forgettable as Creed’s final opponent 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan.

Creed may rely heavily on sentiment and the franchise’s nostalgia factor, but it’s a strategy that pays off in the most compelling Rocky film since, well, Rocky. Bring on the next round.

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