‘Creed’ – ‘Rocky’ series reinvented (IANS Rating: ***)

Film: “Creed”; Director: Ryan Coogler; Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Graham McTavish, Wood Harris, Andre Ward and Gabriel Rosado; Rating: ***

“Creed”, directed by Ryan Coogler, is the seventh film and a spin-off from Sylvester Stallone’s original “Rocky” series. It is an underdog boxing drama that forms a chapter of Rocky Balboa’s life.

It is the story of a humble boxer, his mentor and the woman who becomes his significant other and rock of support. The film gives a fresh perspective to an age-old tale of a new generation of underdogs.

Driven by angst and ignominy of being known as the illegitimate son of the famous heavyweight boxer Apollo Creed, Adonis aka Donnie, is on a mission to snub his inner demon, “I am not a mistake”, and prove himself on his own merit in the boxing ring.

In order to break into the professional circuit, Donnie the self-taught boxer, travels from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. He approaches Rocky Balboa, his father’s one-time opponent, to train him.

Rocky takes him under his wings after initially trying to dissuade him with, “Why would you want to pick a fighter’s life, when you don’t have to”.

In the last act, after Adonis says, “So if I fight, you fight”, the film pulsates back to life after a formulaic start and a middle.

The script by Coogler and Aaron Covington hits all the expected beats of the genre, like overcoming insurmountable odds and overwhelming feeling of accomplishments. It is also packed with mantras for winning like, “One step at a time”. It may be easy to predict where the film takes us but our expectations are occasionally surprised by the minute emotional tinges in the narration.

Michael B. Jordan is sincere, effortless and well deserving as Adonis. His character is well-etched and he takes the deserted child we meet in the beginning to a successful, well mannered son who is willing to throw it all away and work hard enough to do what he really wants to do with his life, to an exceptional high.

He is aptly supported by Sylvester Stallone, who as Rocky Balboa, at nearly seventy, resonates with equal vigour. He charms you as the reluctant, self-sacrificing mentor and father-figure in Adonis’s life.

Tessa Thompson as Adonis’s girlfriend Bianca is natural and their onscreen chemistry is palpable.

Wood Haris as the owner of a local gym who dissuades Adonis from hanging around with his fighters, and Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne Creed, Adonis’s foster mother are pleasant, but wasted.

Cinematographer Maryse Alberti has ingeniously captured some brilliant moments and they have been skilfully layered by editors Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello. The layering of the YouTube film along with Adonis trying to emulate his idol, reminds you of the determination and spirit of the self-taught Eklavya from the Indian mythology “Mahabharata”.

The background music, scored by Ludwig Goranson, is mega and rousing, distinctively different compared to the “Rocky” series. The pieces played during the boxing practices are intense and adrenaline packed.

Overall, “Creed” gives a new lease of life to the aging “Rocky” series and is worth a watch.

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