Creed is the first film in the long-running Rocky franchise to have had no writing or directing input from star Sylvester Stallone. The Hollywood heavyweight retains a credit as producer, but this reboot of the iconic sports movie series benefits from the injection of new blood.
Director Ryan Coogler previously helmed 2013's magnificent Fruitvale Station, and in Creed, he reteams with that film's lead, Michael B Jordan. The charismatic Jordan plays aspiring boxer Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Carl Weathers's Apollo Creed from Rocky I to IV.
'Donnie' is reluctant to adopt the Creed moniker, and travels from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to convince Stallone's 'Italian Stallion' to train him in secret.
The erstwhile champ is initially hesitant - but there'd be no movie if he didn't, and soon, Rocky is ringside and barking orders. Meanwhile, as in 1976, Adonis has some personal challenges to overcome. The most important one is to prove to himself he's not a "mistake".
Creed is refreshingly lacking in cynicism or irony, and Coogler marshals proceedings like an old pro.
The big showdown between the newly emblazoned Creed and Liverpudlian thug 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan (deftly portrayed by real-life European junior heavyweight title-holder Tony Bellew) is brutal and mesmerising. But none of this would work if the characters weren't there, and Jordan wins us over with a humble and heartfelt performance as the titular pugilist, while Stallone delivers his finest work in ages.