CREED. US, 2015. starring Michael B.Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew,Graham McTavish. Directed by Ryan Coogler. 133 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, violence and coarse language)
Those who saw the original Rocky film might scarcely believe that it is almost 40 years since it was released, was extraordinarily popular, won the Oscar for best film. Sylvester Stallone invested a lot of in this character, not only in performance, but writing the screenplay and writing sequels and directing some of them? He even made a comeback in 2006 with Rocky Balboa.
Somebody had the bright idea – and, box-office wise, it is a bright idea – to imagine that Apollo Creed, Carl Weathers in the original films, had an illegitimate son who found out who his father was and wanted to become a boxer, had successful fights under the radar in Mexico, had grown up after his time in juvenile detention to become a successful businessman. But, he wants to give up all this in order to box, to make his own way in the tradition of his father, but using his mother’s name to avoid capitalising on his father’s reputation. He is played by Michael B.Jordan who was the star of the director, Ryan Coogler’s social drama, Fruitvale Station.
So, off he goes to Philadelphia to track down Rocky – Sylvester Stallone at 69. He finds him in his restaurant, but Rocky feels that he is old and cannot consent to train the young man. But, his memories come back, remembering Apollo Creed and his death, but also remembering Adrian his wife and Paulie his trainer, even going to the cemetery to sit with them at their graves and read the news to them. And so, of course, he does decide to train the young man, and there are plenty of vigorous training sequences – vigorous for Adonis Creed, calling himself Donnie Johnson, from his mother’s name, not so vigorous for Rocky himself.
Rocky is not as healthy as he might have imagined and, remembering the death of Adrian and the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy, he decides against it until Adonis challenges him to fight and win with him.
The screenplay, of course, works in a romance, featuring Tessa Thompson as a singer in a club whose loud music in her apartment disturbs Adonis but, when he sees and hears her singing, falls for her and she for him. They get on well together, though there is a falling out when Adonis, angry at Rockies illness, loses his temper with one of her support band members and it looks as if there may might be a serious break.
A Rocky film would not be a Rocky film without a final 12 round boxing battle. This time it is in England, in Liverpool, with the world heavyweight champion, “Pretty” Ricky Conlon. Adonis is the underdog but, by the 12th around, even non-boxing fans will be on his side.
Of course, the screenplay is open to a sequel, to Creed 2 – and initial box office results should be strong enough to persuade Hollywood to make the sequel.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released December 3rd.