Creed is a tour de force, a knockout to the senses, with incredible boxing sequences staged by Ryan Coogler. In short, Creed is nothing less than an incredible studio film, perhaps one of the best of the year.
However, when one considers the shock and awe of the recent Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm battle at UFC 193, the film comes off as hyperrealistic and yet unrealistic at the same exact time.
The story begins thusly: we find young Adonis brawling with another child, beating him to a bloody pulp, foreshadowing the action to come. He is taken away to a cell where he is met by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), who asks to adopt him after disclosing the backstory with his father, the legendary Apollo Creed.
Fast forward a few years, where now older Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan has a cushy day job in finance in Hollywood, but moonlights as a boxer in Mexico.
On a whim, he decided to quit his job and become a full-time fighter. His adopted mother turns her back on him and he moves into a rundown apartment building in Philadelphia. There, he meets his neighbour, Tessa Thompson, of Dear White People and Veronica Mars, a tough streetwise musician, who is battling her own demons, in the form of hearing loss, (sidenote, Thompson is for some reason styled to look and sound like Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice). He then enlists the help of Rocky Balboa, (Sylvester Stallone, who has not been this good in a long time), Adonis’s father’s close friend and frequent opponent.
Rocky takes him on begrudgingly, in order to train the young Adonis as a professional fighter and they soon sign up to take on the number one boxer in the world, in a heavily hyped HBO fight, (with the expectation that Adonis will go down quickly). The vaguely evil English baddies force Adonis to take on the name of his father that he never knew, but carries around in his genes, Creed, (he was previously known as “Hollywood” Johnson).
Rocky is also engaged in a fight, with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Rocky stubbornly refuses treatment, because of Adrian’s (his now deceased wife) unsuccessful battle with cancer. Stallone believably deteriorates throughout the film.
Now, for the fight scenes, Coogler and editors Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver from Michael B. Jordan-starring Fruitvale Station helm an incredible one take sequence mid-movie in which Adonis fights a powerful opponent. The “you are there” feeling during this fight is palpable, and gives rise to the thought that non-professional Jordan is a capable pugilist. He might not be the greatest of all time, but he’s up there.
The final fight between Adonis (now Creed) and ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (professional boxer Anthony Bellew) in comparison is just a bit less frenetic. The authenticity of the fight is well-captured, with Michael Buffer, Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley all on hand and playing themselves. Coogler and company are wise to show the most important snippets of the fight, but it still feels complete. Sadly, this means that the amateur boxing fan can easily predict the final outcome. Also, it is strange to present Conlan as undefeated, as well as never knocked down, and then asks the viewer to believe that Creed can somehow overtake this formidable opponent.
It often feels like fighting-wise, truth is stranger than fiction, and the action in Creed comes off as believable and yet unreal at the same time. It would have been interesting to see more instruction from Rocky than simply “one punch, one round, one step”.
The fight scenes in Creed are tremendously jarring, and the film re-elevates the boxing picture and the Rocky franchise.