The massive legacy of the Rocky film series must have weighed heavily on director Ryan Coogler when he made Creed, a spin-off and sequel to the boxing saga. But just as his protagonist Adonis comes out of his father’s shadow, Coogler’s sophomore feature film firmly makes its own mark.
Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) is the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. He wants to be a boxer like his father, but is rejected by local boxing academy. Fiercely determined, Adonis travels to Philadelphia and seeks the tutelage of his father’s old friend and rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
After he wins a match, Adonis is invited to a fight. He is clearly the underdog, invited mainly because of his dad’s reputation; but with Rocky at his side, he decides to accept the challenge.
The fight scenes are intensely gripping. Coogler uses carefully choreographed long takes to add gritty authenticity. Dramatic drumbeats emphasise the blows and punches; and realistic make-up effects highlight the high stakes of competitive boxing.
But what makes this one of the best Rocky sequels is the genuine chemistry between the actors. Jordan and Stallone pull off a touching dynamic, having each other’s backs while frequently poking fun at each other. While sometimes Creed veers on the edge of cheesy, it never crosses that line. Rather, its down-to-earth charm makes it one of the best sports dramas of recent years.