Without Sly, this one-two combo can’t quite deliver a knockout: BRIAN VINER reviews Creed
Creed III (12A, 116mins)
Verdict: A rocky premise
All the training that Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa did, culminating in the famous run up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, sure paid off.
Here we are, getting on for half a century after Rocky (1976), and the franchise is still punching.
There were six Rocky films before Stallone’s character yielded the spotlight to Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his old adversary and friend, Apollo Creed.
Tired as I am even of the word ‘franchise’, and of series of films that go on for generations, mining the same increasingly tired seam (Bond and the Carry Ons are above reproach, obviously), I was a fan of both Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018).
There’s an expression in boxing: the ‘one-two combo’. Jab with one hand, cross with the other, or attack your opponent with a left hook, quickly followed by a right uppercut.
Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed for the third time in this ‘really daft’ sequel that pits him against an old friend
Jonathan Majors stars as Damian Anderson, an old pal of Adonis who took the rap for a crime the boxing champion committed when he was younger
The Rocky/Creed movies do just that with their audiences, aptly enough. Knock ’em flat with extreme brutality in the ring then follow up smartly with heartrending poignancy out of it, a cinematic one-two combo that has been working for 47 years and counting.
Classic film on TV
Groundhog Day (1993) – C5, 12.30pm, Sunday
You wouldn’t want to watch it every day. But once a year or so . . . why not? A marvellous premise for a comedy, impeccably realised.
Yet for me, despite – or just as likely because of – this whiskery old formula, Creed III doesn’t quite go the distance. For one thing, there’s no Stallone this time, not because they couldn’t have contrived a way into the narrative for the Great Mumbler, but because he’s at loggerheads with veteran producer Irwin Winkler. Either way, the Rocky/Creed recipe feels wrong without its original ingredient.
More problematically, at least from where I was sitting, the elastic stretch between fiction and real life snaps altogether in Creed III.
As all boxing fans know, these films have always taken huge liberties with what, for want of a shorter word, I’ll call verisimilitude. In the huge box-office hit Rocky Balboa (2006), the jaded old champ clambered back into the ring at the age of 60. But this one gets really daft.
Set in the present day, it begins with a flashback to 2002, when the delinquent Adonis commits a violent assault then looks on as his pal, Damian, takes the rap. Two decades on, Adonis is retired from fighting but working as a trainer, manager and promoter.
With wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their deaf daughter Amara (nicely played by deaf newcomer Mila Davis-Kent), he lives in hilltop splendour, with that panoramic view over Los Angeles enjoyed, it sometimes seems, by eight out of ten rich people in the movies.
But then Damian (Jonathan Majors) reappears in his life. He’s just done an almost 20-year stretch in the joint but he was a terrific amateur boxer in his youth and now he wants Adonis to get him a shot at the world heavyweight title.
Adonis owes him, you see. So when the mighty Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) conveniently withdraws from a keenly-awaited forthcoming bout, the script is written. ‘Right now we gotta think outside the box,’ muses Adonis, thinking not just outside the box but well beyond even the more distant realms of reality.
Tessa Thompson returns as Adonis’s wife, Bianca, in the ninth film on the Rocky/Creed franchise
From there, the story gets even sillier, with Adonis himself pulling the gloves back on as a score-settling exercise – a spoiler only to those who’ve never seen one of these films before.
Maybe it’s because I have just ghost-written the autobiography of boxing promoter Frank Warren that I feel faintly affronted by all this in a way that I never have before. Heaven knows, the so-called ‘noble art’ has its flaws as a sport, but there are dozens of immoveable obstacles in place to stop inexperienced, long-forgotten amateurs opting, after a short burst of intense training, to take a crack at a world title.
It does boxing no good for people to be told otherwise. We all love an underdog story, of course, yet commercial fiction doesn’t have to be quite so divorced from hard fact.
Still, if you can see past that, and the unsettling spectacle of young Amara ringside as her beloved daddy goes into thunderous combat, Creed III has its merits.
It is slickly directed (his directorial debut) by its star, Michael B. Jordan. And as a morally compromised antagonist, Majors does a knockout job.
With his turn as the villain in the new Ant-Man film still in cinemas, he’s clearly on a fast track to stardom. But that rarely happens even in acting without a lot of hard work and great dollops of luck.
In boxing, it only happens in the movies.
Ghostly influencer with the CIA spooks on his tail
Most recent films about the fashion industry have compounded the iconic status of giants such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Mary Quant.
But Fashion Reimagined (12A,****) takes another approach, examining the dubious morality of an industry that, were it a country, would be the world’s third-worst contributor to carbon emissions after China and the U.S. The particular focus of Becky Hutner’s documentary is an inspiring young woman called Amy Powney, creative director of London-based fashion company Mother Of Pearl.
In less sure hands the film could come across as an extended commercial, but by following Powney and her colleagues as they seek to tick every possible ethical box in the creation of their ‘No Frills’ collection, it is hugely enlightening about ‘one of the most destructive industries on the planet’ and how it needs to change.
If that sounds worthy but dull, then look out for one of Powney’s heroes, designer Katharine Hamnett, as fierce and foul-mouthed as ever in her advocacy for more sustainable fashion. The film is in select cinemas from today.
Fashion Reimagined examines the dubious morality of the industry and follows a London-based company attempting to tick every possible ethical box in the creation of its new collection
Frank (Anthony Mackie), Melanie (Erica Ash), Fulton (Niles Fitch) and Kevin (Jahi Winston) have a supernatural problem in Netflix comedy We Have A Ghost
I enjoyed the Netflix comedy We Have A Ghost (12,***), pictured above, in which a family move into a haunted house, befriend the resident spirit, Ernest (David Harbour), and try to capitalise by turning him into a social media sensation, which duly attracts the attention of the CIA’s paranormal investigations department.
It’s fun, especially when Jennifer Coolidge screams into (and just as quickly out of) the picture as a mad TV medium.
I also really admired a sombre Belgian film, Close (12A, ****), in cinemas today. With skill and sensitivity writer-director Lukas Dhont tells the story of two 13‑year‑old boys, unusually devoted friends until their schoolmates start to ask questions of their sexuality, causing one to distance himself from the other with awful consequences.
It’s very tenderly done and the acting, especially by the two boys, is wonderful.
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