The son of Apollo Creed turns to Rocky Balboa to train him for the ring in this largely successful reboot of the Rocky franchise.


That’s Creed as in Apollo Creed. And for those who weren’t even born when the heavyweight champ was killed in the ring in the 1985 Rocky IV, he was both a rival and then a friend to Rocky Balboa. Thirty years on, there’s a new fighter in town going by the name of Adonis ‘Hollywood’ Johnson. ‘Donny’ is actually the son of Apollo but is determined not to exploit the memory of the father he never knew. Now, thirty is pretty old in boxing circles, but then much of this offshoot of the Rocky franchise – in which Sylvester Stallone plays Balboa for a seventh time – is highly unlikely.


The good news is that the first third of Creed is more of a Ryan Coogler film than it is a Rocky one. It was Coogler who made his directorial debut with the affecting and compelling slice-of-life drama Fruitvale Station (2013), which starred Michael B. Jordan and won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Jordan returns here as Adonis and is not only majorly ripped but mixes up a winning cocktail of charm and fury. In fact, he makes a much more plausible pugilist than Stallone did in his later films and you can understand every word he says.



Training day: Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan



As the film’s narrative arc is as predictable as a Swiss watch, one needn’t dwell on the specifics other than to say that Adonis wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and convinces Rocky to train him. Stallone won the Golden Globe this year for best supporting actor (for portraying a character he created himself in 1976, and can play in his sleep), but Jordan gives the more credible performance. Still, this is a Rocky film, albeit something of a reboot. And, taking its cue from Casino Royale, which re-shaped the James Bond charter (a scene from Skyfall is even glimpsed on a TV screen here), so the Rocky theme tune is only initially hinted at in the odd swell of brass. It’s not until the twelfth round of an important match that the first few bars of Bill Conti’s iconic theme is allowed to let rip.


The boxing sequences are suitably visceral and Jordan gives us a slugger to root for, while only the stone-hearted will be unable to resist Stallone’s return to form (he is very good). There may be clichés aplenty, but you get what you expect and it will come as no surprise that a ‘sequel’ is already in the works.




Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish, Ritchie Coster, Liev Schreiber (voice only).


Dir Ryan Coogler, Pro Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Kevin King-Templeton and Sylvester Stallone, Screenplay Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, Ph Maryse Alberti, Pro Des Hannah Beachler, Ed Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello, Music Ludwig Göransson, Costumes Antoinette Messam and Emma Potter.


New Line Cinema-Warner Brothers.

132 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 15 January 2015. Cert 12A.