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'Creed' - Movie Review

'Creed'
A; Drama, Sport
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew
Rating: 

Warner Bros sure know how to encash on an age-old (40 years) successful studio property. The film that transported the monosyllabic, expressionless Sylvester Stallone to big-ticket super stardom and continued to rake in the millions in all it's sequel editions since, becomes the basis for this new-gen spin-off helmed by a fresh new director. Ryan Coogler (of 'Fruitvale Station' fame) sets up story and direction credits with this formulaic revisit of the 'Rocky Balboa' story- albeit with a new and relatively fresh young player to help stir up the passions.

Watch the trailer of 'Creed'

Adonis Creed a.k.a Donnie (Michael B. Jordan), the illegitimate son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed is a troubled young orphaned kid who goes through the state reform process before he gets picked-up by Apollo's widow for a rehab of homely love and affection. Her only condition being that he stay away from the sport that killed his father (in an eponymous title fight with Ivan Drago). But the kid, now an adult with a well-paying job, can't resist the lure of the boxing ring. Adonis resigns from his job and moves to Philadelphia in search of his late fathers' nemesis-turned-best friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), in the hopes of enlisting him as his trainer. Balboa, now running a successful Italian restaurant, is not so keen but the young Creed's dedication and fire persuades him to give it a shot. And they both work up some sweat towards a one-off big-ticket title shot, while banking on the famous name to pull off the further spin-offs. It's quite obvious this film is meant to re-energise the sub-genre while instilling fresh new heritage infused blood into the franchise.

Despite the obviousness and the formulaic template that it follows, there's some fresh vitality and energy springing forth here. And thankfully, it doesn't have to get an ageing Stallone into the ring( for which we are very grateful) to do the needful. Stallone hogs the sidelines while Michael B Jordan does all the hard work. As an abandoned son out to claim his legacy, he manages to keep to the form and tenor of what's expected. A large part of the runtime is spent on getting Rocky and Donnie to connect. And with monosyllabic responses from both sides it's quite a tough ask I say. Yet the Director manages to invest enough time and effort to make that part of it credible enough. Unfortunately that doesn't leave enough room for any great fight-drama in the boxing ring. For an upstart, riding on an inherited name, to get a shot at a World heavyweight title seems a little far-fetched. And it doesn't seem reason enough even when the current heavyweight title holder stands discredited and a month away from suspension. It's a rocky formula at best and there aren't enough feints to put us off the scent. The sentimental buttons are pushed in orchestrated fashion and the revisits to former glory don't amount to any great attachment.

Romance, melodrama and fantasy-fulfillment add milestones to the manipulative plotting. A first-off fight is all too conveniently arranged to establish the upstart's potential. And then it's a fast-track to that high-stakes title fight with Conlon (Tony Bellew) - arranged for Adonis far earlier in his career than would ever be the case in real life.

It's all about positioning and Coogler sets it up quite smartly. The first bout in the East Coast is captured with fluency through an agilely held steadicam. And it comes half way through the runtime- timed perfectly to pep you up after the yawn-inducing bonding between Balboa and Donnie and stuttering romantic scenes between Donnie and Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Bianca gets our empathy right away because she has a progressive hearing defect while Donnie raises his own value by pursuing her as a love interest. The problem here is not the relationships but the fights. Though well staged it does not get you entirely involved. There's a degree of disbelief that just doesn't get overcome here. Jordan doesn't appear to have the muscle mass to fix the Big Irishman as assayed by Bellew and the staging is such that he scores big hits much before you can believe in his punches. Despite all these shortcomings, this film is a fairly decent representation of a new-gen spin-off of the age-old studio hit formula.

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