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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

Cinema Review – Creed

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creed-movie-image-sylvester-stallone-michael-b-jordanThere have been some great boxing movies – Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby are immediate standouts. None of the Rocky series (1976–90) comes close, so it would have been easy to write off with alacrity the new generation of Balboa v the World – the quasi-religious title is worry enough. But things have changed, and if Ryan Coogler’s pugilistic parable is not a cinema classic, it is at least more nuanced than its predecessors.
For a start, Rocky is older and wiser and, most engagingly, Sylvester Stallone reveals that he really can act (a longstanding joke has Sly playing Hamlet – ‘To be or not to be… d’er, what was the question?’). Adonis (Michael B Jordan), the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, former world champ and Rocky’s fabled opponent, is following his father’s footsteps, but he wants to do it on his own terms by retaining his mother’s name of Johnston. Word gets out that he is Apollo’s boy and the train of celebrity exploitation leads to a title challenge, with Rocky as Adonis’s mentor. The narrative is as you’d expect, but in between there is the connection made between Adonis, Rocky and Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a nightclub singer.
It is this middle part of the story that, as it should, lays the foundation for the emotion of the knockout punch at the end. Coogler enhances it by showing genuine respect for the real people involved in the fight game and a non-judgmental appreciation of the culture from which it springs. The gym scenes and support players – Wood Harris and Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran barely say a word – are authentic in a way that has no hint of pretend and if a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do – well, so be it. The climactic bout is as overdone as they always are, with more blood, more toe-to-toe slugging than you might see in a dozen bouts, but Coogler’s movie is a lot better than expected and Sly is terrific.

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