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Creed - ITV

(Image credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture)

Almost 40 years after he first played boxer Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone reprises his role in this first spin-off movie

Almost 40 years after he first played boxer Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone reprises his role in this first spin-off movie.

This time, however, the film's scrappy underdog is Michael B Jordan's Adonis Johnson, illegitimate son of deceased heavyweight champ Apollo Creed, who cajoles his late father's friend Rocky to become his trainer and boost his own boxing dreams.

Up-and-coming young filmmaker Ryan Coogler directs with muscular assurance, confident enough to deploy the old one-two combo of violence in the ring and sentiment outside the ropes, and unafraid of dishing out the customary clichés when required.

His actors make the weight, too. Jordan conveys a convincing blend of toughness and vulnerability, self-possession and doubt, while Oscar-nominated Stallone, brimming with battered dignity, is the best he's been in years. However, the film's  romantic sub-plot involving musician Tessa Thompson is underwhelming and the training montages are all too predictable.

When it comes to the bouts, though, they are choreographed with brutal grace and the action builds to a rousing climax, boosted by deft use of Bill Conti's triumphant Rocky theme. Not quite a knockout movie, then, but this certainly wins on points.