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“If I fight, you fight”: Sly Stallone and the aged action star’s triumphant submission in Creed

by Ethan Tussey

by Glen Donnar for IN MEDIA RESThe training montage is a genre staple of the boxing film. It conventionally includes the labored transformation or building of the underdog challenger's body intercut with shots of the already-built body of the champion he seeks to defeat. It is particularly associated with Sylvester Stallones hypermasculine star image, defined by hyperbolic spectacle and hard bodied muscularity (see Tasker 1993; Jeffords 1994), and his most iconic character, Rocky Balboa.
The training montage in Creed (Coogler 2015), the critically acclaimed seventh installment in the Rocky series, showcases Ryan Cooglers abiding and resonant interest in the lives of young black men, as the illegitimate son of Rockys great friend and rival, Apollo Creed, strives to become Adonis Creed (formerly Johnson) under Rockys tutelage. Coogler adds a third dimension to this genre trope, incorporating Rockys reluctant treatment for cancer, as the older man learns to fight again at the insistent behest of the younger black man: If I fight, you fight. Cooglers homage reflexively mirrors and transforms the first Rocky (Avildsen 1976) through multiple generational and racial interdependences. The fates of sick blue collar white man and fatherless young black man, aged 80s action star and energized would-be star, and writer-directors separated by four decades are more than shared; each can only ascend with (the support of) his other.
Stallones late career resuscitation, exemplified by the unexpected commercial success of his new geri-action franchise, The Expendables, cannily if desperately veils and displaces his (and the all-star 80s action collectives he assembles) diminished action capacities and aged hard body. Yet in the montage, Stallone, whose performance garnered an Oscar nomination, finally shows and admits the frailty of his aged action body and the genre-star mortality this represents. In so doing, Stallone directly engages persistent vulnerabilities and anxieties as an actor, as a commercial auteur (Holmlund 2014), and as an ageing/aged action star. Ironically, in relinquishing authorial control over his star image Creed is the first of the series Stallone neither writes nor directs he extends and enshrines its legacy. Unlike Rocky, in Stallone's submission rather than stubborn resistance, he triumphs and perhaps even makes us love him again.

“If I fight, you fight”: Sly Stallone and the aged action star’s triumphant submission in Creed

by Ethan Tussey

by Glen Donnar for IN MEDIA RESThe training montage is a genre staple of the boxing film. It conventionally includes the labored transformation or building of the underdog challenger's body intercut with shots of the already-built body of the champion he seeks to defeat. It is particularly associated with Sylvester Stallones hypermasculine star image, defined by hyperbolic spectacle and hard bodied muscularity (see Tasker 1993; Jeffords 1994), and his most iconic character, Rocky Balboa.
The training montage in Creed (Coogler 2015), the critically acclaimed seventh installment in the Rocky series, showcases Ryan Cooglers abiding and resonant interest in the lives of young black men, as the illegitimate son of Rockys great friend and rival, Apollo Creed, strives to become Adonis Creed (formerly Johnson) under Rockys tutelage. Coogler adds a third dimension to this genre trope, incorporating Rockys reluctant treatment for cancer, as the older man learns to fight again at the insistent behest of the younger black man: If I fight, you fight. Cooglers homage reflexively mirrors and transforms the first Rocky (Avildsen 1976) through multiple generational and racial interdependences. The fates of sick blue collar white man and fatherless young black man, aged 80s action star and energized would-be star, and writer-directors separated by four decades are more than shared; each can only ascend with (the support of) his other.
Stallones late career resuscitation, exemplified by the unexpected commercial success of his new geri-action franchise, The Expendables, cannily if desperately veils and displaces his (and the all-star 80s action collectives he assembles) diminished action capacities and aged hard body. Yet in the montage, Stallone, whose performance garnered an Oscar nomination, finally shows and admits the frailty of his aged action body and the genre-star mortality this represents. In so doing, Stallone directly engages persistent vulnerabilities and anxieties as an actor, as a commercial auteur (Holmlund 2014), and as an ageing/aged action star. Ironically, in relinquishing authorial control over his star image Creed is the first of the series Stallone neither writes nor directs he extends and enshrines its legacy. Unlike Rocky, in Stallone's submission rather than stubborn resistance, he triumphs and perhaps even makes us love him again.

Creed and Montage

A montage from Creed

from Creed (2015)
Creator: Ryan Coogler
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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