Image Credit: MGM/Warner Bros.
I had previously written off the Rocky series as yesterday’s news, but 'Creed' breathed new life into the hoary old boxing franchise, proving that there was life in the old beast yet. 'Creed II' is not quite as good, but it is still a satisfying watch that pushes the right buttons and delivers the genre goods, whilst exploring a few interesting new corners.
This time, the challenge for Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) comes from Victor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Yes, that Drago, ie son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lungren), former opponent of Rocky (in 1985’s 'Rocky IV'), and the man who killed Rocky’s former opponent turned best friend Apollo, Creed’s father.
Adonis wants to fight, but his trainer/mentor Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) wants no part of re-opening old wounds. At the same time, Creed and his musician/singer partner Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are expecting a baby, which means he really has something to lose if history repeats itself.
Performances are all good, but for me the genuine surprise was Dolph Lungren. His turn as the older, embittered Ivan Drago, a man whose defeat cost him almost everything (including his wife), was a poignant masterclass in understated vengefulness. The role is small but hugely significant, allowing him and his son to be well-motivated antagonists for whom I also felt immense pity. Themes of the sins of the father being revisited on their children come to the fore here, and whilst the plot is still quite predictable overall, there are additional unexpected bumps here and there that ensured my interest was held throughout.
Fans of the series will have nothing to complain about.
Ultimately director Steven Caple Jr knows what is expected of him, and as such he delivers a suitably bruising finale. 'Creed II' isn’t going to go down in history as one of the genuinely great boxing movies, but it is a fine companion piece to the previous film, itself the strongest entry in the franchise since the original 1976 'Rocky'.
In short, fans of the series will have nothing to complain about.