Like Rocky Balboa himself, 2015’s Creed, game out of the corner and into the ring swinging; beating fans and critics alike to deliver a winner. Steve Googler steps down as director with Steven Caple Jr taking the helm and manages to pull off an exceptional second round. Creed II continues the fight of Adonis Creed and his mentorship with Rocky Balboa, his late father’s old boxing opponent. Creed, now a champion in his own right, is knocked off his throne by the violent return of Rocky’s Russian nemesis Ivan Drago and his brute son.
Creed was a knockout. Creed II is just as good, maintaining the title of best sporting films in recent memory. The films strongest punches are in its powerful performances, slick story and some of fiercest fight choreography in years. Michael B. Jordan is one of the strongest young actors working today and anchors the film with weight and maturity, giving complexity to a character that so easily could have been two dimensional. His Adonis Creed is a flawed hero whose success and hubris is beginning to cripple the fighter. Cleverly the film opens with Adonis entering the ring with the same sort of bravado and smugness as the first film’s villain.
What follows is a story arc that is nothing new, but it works. The formula flows, the characters are likable and one finds themselves genuinely invested. Though the boxing may be lacking in suspense, thankfully the same is not true for the scenes that take place outside the ring. This is boosted by the effortless chemistry and charisma between Jordan and Tessa Thompson – who is thankfully given more to work with this time around. She’s fiery and electrifying. As for Stallone, he is undoubtedly a good actor, one that doesn’t receive the due credit. While unfortunately he isn’t quite the revelation he was last time, he is still adding depth and nuance to Rocky Balboa over 40 years after the character first graced our screens. The film also manages to make the cartoon villain of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from Rocky IV into a complicated and motivated antagonist. The challenger this time, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) is a brute force, and although he isn’t given much dialogue, he is an imposing opponent.
Shot with pace and fast editing, utilizing POV camera work in the ring thrusting us into the action and making us feel every damaging blow thrown at our hero, Creed II is a tale about strength and legacy. Creed and the Drago’s lose their strength, seek their legacy and fight to get it back. They have got to go to hell and back to triumph. Creed II is flawed, a little cliché and predictable, however that doesn’t make it any less fun, enjoyable and full of heart. Creed II delivers the same wallop as the first, even if it isn’t as good.
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