×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Creed II’

Michael B. Jordan's ferocious performance anchors a sequel that's rousing and effective but lacks the powerful punch of the first 'Creed.'

Director:
Steven Caple Jr.
With:
Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Brigitte Nielsen, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Andre Ward, Milo Ventimiglia.
Release Date:
Nov 21, 2018

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6343314/

In “Creed II,” Michael B. Jordan, all hardened fury and wounded tenderness, reprises the role of Adonis Creed, the ardent bruiser who’s got boxing in his blood as much as his father, Apollo Creed, ever did. The movie is a sequel to “Creed,” Ryan Coogler’s astonishingly vibrant and soulful 2015 spinoff/reboot. But you could also call it the eighth “Rocky” film. And maybe because Coogler opted out of this one (he serves as an executive producer, but it was directed by the relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.), and the script was co-written by Sylvester Stallone (with Juel Taylor), “Creed II,” far more than the first film, feels like it’s drawing heavily on a 40-year-old franchise.

Taken on its own terms, the movie is a rousing and effective sequel, with a couple of surprise punches and, mostly, a lot of smooth feints and jabs you’ve seen before. But if you compare it to, say, the second and third “Rocky” sequels, with their larger-than-life villains (Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago), what’s noticeable about “Creed II” is that it never quite comes up with a new character or situation that attains an iconic status all its own.

The movie opens with Jordan’s Creed pounding his way toward the knockout punch that lands him the title of world heavyweight champion. Grooving on his new king-of-the-world image, he then works up the courage to pop the question to the spunky and supportive Bianca (Tessa Thompson), whose career as a pop star is on the rise. (As it turns out, he’s in for a bigger jolt than the fact that she says yes.) And though Creed has defeated all comers, this proves to be child’s play compared to the nemesis who now rears his head.

That would be Viktor Drago — yes, the son of Ivan Drago. Dolph Lundgren, looking more creased and less towering than before, his blockish hair graying but intact, is back as Ivan, who lost everything (his country, his honor, Brigitte Nielsen) after his defeat by Rocky. He’s got a lot to avenge, and plans to do it all through his son, who has grown up as a scowling-eyed scavenger in Ukraine. Florian Munteanu, the Romanian-born boxer, actor, and fitness star who plays Viktor, has a soft round face set off by a shaved head and a fuzzy black round beard, and his eyes are tiny burning coals of hate. Viktor’s life has been a raw deal, and he too wants revenge. Plus, the Dragos know that Creed’s motivation to fight will prove to be his chief vulnerability: Thirty years before (in “Rocky IV”), Ivan didn’t just defeat Creed’s father, Apollo — he hit him so hard that he killed him in the ring. The prospect of a score-settling bout between their two sons sounds like a match made in cable-sports heaven: payback vs. payback.

Jordan, a fantastic actor, plays all of this with a cutthroat cool laced with existential anxiety. When Creed says “I’m dangerous,” he means it, but Jordan delivers that line with a street-cred hubris that’s his way of showing us Creed’s need to prove himself. Viktor, his boxing antagonist, is built like a wall of muscle and punches like a lethal machine. He’s a formidable foe, though when he shows up in the ring opposite Creed, it’s hard to shake the feeling that he lacks that special annihilating X Factor that made his father a character you can still draw upon 33 years after the movie in which he first appeared. “Rocky IV,” of course, tapped into the still-thriving tensions of the Cold War, but in “Creed II” all the legacy-and-destiny stuff feeds, at times almost parasitically, on the earlier film’s glory.

Three years ago, the first “Creed” was about re-establishing how deep our connection to Stallone’s Rocky really was, and it was about Jordan lighting a fire of desperate bravado in Adonis Creed that burned the way Stallone’s did back in the ’70s and early ’80s. It was about the catharsis of creating an African-American Rocky. “Creed II” carries you along, but it’s less exhilarating and more programmatic. Stallone, in his black-leather jacket, gray T-shirt, and rumpled pork-pie hat, reprises his artfully understated Rocky-as-senior-citizen performance from “Creed” — the grumble perfectly tuned, the older-and-wiser twinkle more powerful than his words. Rocky warns Creed not to take the Drago fight, and refuses to train him for it, and the fact that the bout takes place just halfway through the movie is enough to let you know that it’s probably going to result in something other than Creed’s glorious victory.

“Creed II” is really a movie about faith. It’s about how Adonis Creed loses his, wallows in the wilderness, then fights to get it back. Instead of training in a meat locker, he now gets taken by Rocky out to the desert to a place that looks like the Mad Max Gym. He’s got to go to hell and back to triumph. “Creed II” has been made with heart and skill, and Jordan invests each moment with such fierce conviction that he makes it all seem like it matters. Even if it all mattered a notable notch more in “Creed.”

RELATED VIDEO: 

Film Review: 'Creed II'

Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, New York, Nov. 15, 2018. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 130 MIN.

Production: An MGM, Warner Bros. release of an MGM Studios, Warner Bros. production, in association with New Line Cinema. Producers: Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King Templeton, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler, Udi Nedivi. Executive producers: Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Guy Reidel.

Crew: Director: Steven Caple Jr. Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor. Camera (color, widescreen): Kramer Morgenthau. Editors: Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider, Paul Harb. Music: Ludwig Göransson.

With: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Brigitte Nielsen, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Andre Ward, Milo Ventimiglia.

More Film

  • Chris Pratt Tom Holland Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer to Voice Pixar's 'Onward'

    Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer are leading the voice cast for “Onward,” Pixar’s next original movie. Pixar had previously referred to the film as an untitled suburban fantasy. Dan Scanlon, who helmed 2013’s “Monsters University” for Pixar, is directing “Onward.” He’s re-teamed with producer Kori Rae, who also produced “Monsters University.” [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Maniac

    Emma Stone, Darren Criss and More React to SAG Award Nominations

    The nominations for the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were revealed on Wednesday morning, and “A Star Is Born” commanded the list with four noms alongside TV series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ozark.” The awards recognize acting and ensemble performances across television and film, and this year, plenty of performers will be competing [...]

  • Sterling K Brown The Fence

    Sterling K. Brown to Star in Fox Searchlight's 'The Fence' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following his SAG nomination for actor in a drama series, Sterling K. Brown is in negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight’s biopic “The Fence,” sources tell Variety. Peter Nicks is on board to direct. George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane, who originally brought the book to HBO before it landed at Searchlight, teamed up to adapt [...]

  • Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R:

    Ryan Coogler on How 'Black Panther' Broke Barriers Below-the-Line, Too

    With more than $1.3 billion at the global box office, “Black Panther” was one of the year’s biggest hits. Though some people expected just another superhero film, the project turned out to be much deeper and more complex than that. Many called it a social turning point because it was the first blockbuster with a [...]

  • Biggest Box Office Hits of 2018

    The Biggest Box Office Hits and Flops of 2018

    It was the revival nobody saw coming. After a dismal 2017, in which the North American box office tumbled to a three-year low, moviegoing rebounded in a big way. And it wasn’t just superhero tentpoles and animated adventures raking in the green. With all due respect to “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” [...]

  • If Beale Street Could Talk Sharp

    Golden Globes: Amy Adams, Regina King Lead List of Crossover Nominees

    In the age of peak TV, actors, writers, directors and producers, and subsequently their managers and agents, are open for business in any medium, and that new attitude shows in awards nominations, especially when it comes to the Golden Globe acting fields. Amy Adams and Regina King scored nominations in both film and TV categories [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content