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11th Jan 2016

Creed review: Director Ryan Coogler can emulate Adonis Creed’s journey from newcomer to one of the greats

Tom Victor

At the Front Street Gym in Philadelphia countless fight posters adorn the walls, encompassing decades of title bouts.

It is a sight revisited throughout Creed, the latest film in the Rocky canon, and provides context for both the film’s events and the production itself.

The analogue format of pinboard and posters is to Creed‘s estimations of pay-per-view boxing promos what the earlier Rocky films are to the newest instalment.

In a way it’s a reflection of whether the underdog narrative which flourished in the 80s can be translated to the present day without appearing staid. Creed shows that with the right ingredients, it definitely can.


Those ingredients are an immensely talented young director in Ryan Coogler, a disgustingly charismatic star in Michael B Jordan, and in Sylvester Stallone a bridge between past and present without which it’s difficult to see the film having the same impact.

Stallone has rightfully earned the Best Supporting Actor accolade at the Golden Globes, and we can expect Creed to be in the mix when the Oscars roll around.

Jordan excels as Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (aka Adonis Creed), the youngest son of Rocky’s former nemesis Apollo Creed. Donnie is keen to establish himself without the Creed surname, and the actor himself had to cope with comparable pressures while shooting the film.

“Over time, as it started to get real and I became more invested, I began looking at the situation like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility; this is the 40-year legacy of Rocky,” Jordan has admitted.


That Creed stands alongside Oscar-winner Rocky is testament to its all-round quality, not merely the bigger budget, in much the same way that the outcome of Adonis Creed’s fight with ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan is determined by execution in the ring rather than flashy promos.

Coogler gets the balance spot on, incorporating the montages that served Rocky director John G Avildsen so well, but adding a slick modern flourish.

The audience is treated to almost video game-like shots inside the ring: Johnson/Creed’s fights against Leo Sporino and Conlan will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

It is remarkable to think the American is still just 29 years old, given the exceptional pacing and storytelling exhibited in both this and his critically-acclaimed debut Fruitvale Station.


Other members of the supporting cast – especially Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed and Tessa Thompson as a love interest more complex than the film needed to offer – are given excellently-weighted roles. Even boxer Tony Bellew, whose performance as Conlan is his first step into film, does himself justice.

This is ultimately Coogler’s film, though, and like Adonis he is proof that talent, and not legacy alone, can offer a path to greatness.