Director Ryan Coogler delivers a knockout with Creed

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      Starring Michael B. Jordan. Rated PG.

      The original Rocky was an amazing movie. As a kid, I loved the palooka-versus-champ heroics. As an adult, I see how Sylvester Stallone foreshadowed Rocky’s ability to survive punishment in the ring (the character was modelled on Chuck Wepner, known as the “Bayonne Bleeder”) with his determined, charming optimism out of it.

      But you can only take so many sequels before the story is completely worn-out, and pointless to film again.

      Unless you are Ryan Coogler, that is, who I think might be a genius. His Fruitvale Station (2013) drew a lot of admiration and made a star out of Michael B. Jordan, but I think Creed is even more of a feat. This is a young director stepping into big budgets, big pressure, and the Nth sequel to a movie released in 1976. And he has delivered in every possible way, walking the formula path but with new characters and a visual excitement that is completely its own.

      Along with Sicario, this has to be one of the most impressively shot movies of the year. Coogler takes us through the Rocky world but from different angles, whether in its underused urban locations or backstage at a major fight. It all feels convincing and right, with a wealth of technical detail that teaches the audience what we eventually see at the inevitable grand showdown.

      He can also handle actors. Jordan is fierce and wounded as the unacknowledged son of Apollo Creed, the Muhammad Ali of the Rocky-verse, and Tessa Thompson glows (and glowers) as a young musician who can understand his drive. And Stallone? I didn’t know he could disappear into a part. His Balboa is now an old man, but a shrewd one, with a few treasures left to give the son of his best friend.

      And if Ryan Coogler decides that we need to see more, then Rocky has a ton of life left.

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