Creed ★★★★

CREED, the 7th film in the Rocky franchise, requires minimal knowledge about its predecessors to enjoy the film on its own merit. The film primarily succeeds on the back of strong writing and director-actor chemistry between Coogler, Jordan, Stallone and Thompson. CREED relies much less than Rocky 1-6 on Philadelphia, on boxing tropes, on over-dramatization through music or violence. To be sure, it uses all of these things for effect, but uses them sparingly. And in its sparing use, is much more successful, not least because the boxing scenes are beautifully choreographed and filmed.

The real success, to me, is the role of race in this film. Adonis is a black man, from a mixed background including a privileged life in a mansion. His main opponent is a white man from the working class (although he's from England, perhaps because burdening the audience with the legacy of white America may have been too much to ask). This subversion was pulled off simply and without being heavy handed. Many aspects of this film react to and are in conversation with Hollywood boxing films, but they hardly seem dogmatic. Instead, they come together to create a new kind of story. We get a full and empathetic portrayal of a black man, who is given emotional complexity but not robbed of his physical dominance.