Dan's Review: "Creed II" continues the crowd-pleasing fun
Nov 21, 2018 11:40AM
● By Dan Metcalf
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in Creed II - © 2018 Warner Bros.
Creed II (MGM/Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Andre Ward, Phylicia Rashad, Brigitte Nielsen, Milo Ventimiglia.
Written by Sylvester Stallone, Juel Taylor, Sascha Penn, and Cheo Hodari Coker, based on characters by Sylvester Stallone.
Directed by Steven Caple, Jr.
I remember sitting in a theater many years ago watching Rocky II with my brothers and a few friends. I also remember the audience standing and cheering in the final moments of Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) fight with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) as the “Italian Stallion” rose victorious. Such crowd-pleasing moments are the staple of movies like Rocky when an underdog finally gets his shot at glory. Trouble is, what happens when the underdog becomes the champ? For Stallone, the remedy has always been to manufacture less-than authentic conflict, as the hero with everything loses it all. As the rebirth of the Rocky storyline continues through Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), you can see some of these same issues resurfacing. Will Creed II have the same crowd-pleasing success?
When we left the younger Creed’s story, he had just lost a split decision in a light-heavyweight championship bout. With his relationship to Bianca (Tessa Thomson) blossoming, “Donnie” considers his boxing options. Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, the aging Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains his son Victor (Florian “Big Nasty” Monteanu) to fight, with the hope of returning his name to glory after being beaten by Balboa in Rocky IV. Besides being famous for the humiliation of being beaten by the smaller American, Drago is also famous for killing Creed’s father. When Victor starts to dominate his matches, fight promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) sees an opportunity to unite Creed and Drago once again for a major fight. Donnie wants to take the fight, but Rocky refuses to train him, since Drago is bigger and stronger, not to mention his history watching the elder Creed die in his arms. Donnie takes the fight anyway and moves to L.A. to train with the son of his father’s former trainer, “Little Duke” (Wood Harris). Meanwhile, Tessa discovers she’s pregnant, and Creed’s stepmother Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) offers moral support to the young couple. The big fight takes place in New York, with predictable results: Creed is beaten soundly and suffers major injuries. Now the toast of Russia again, Drago and his son are courted by the powerful and even garner a visit from Victor’s estranged mother Ludmila (Brigitte Nielsen). Back in America, Creed suffers through rehabilitation as his baby daughter is born. A short time later, Buddy comes calling with a proposed rematch with Drago. Creed is hesitant, but Rocky convinces him that he can win with the right mindset. Rocky and Creed train in the desert as the big fight arrives, this time in Moscow. If you have any doubts as to the outcome, you’ve never seen a Rocky movie before.
Even with the predictable outcomes, the borrowed storylines and the oft-cheesy dialogue (not to mention the improper weight class allowances between the smallish Jordan and hulking Monteanu), Creed II hits the target as a true crowd-pleaser. Michael B. Jordan is a gifted actor with real screen presence, even while sharing the screen with a film icon like Stallone.
While most of the story is predictable, one element of Creed II is not, and there is one performance that stands out above the rest. I’m referring to Dolph Lundgren (you read that correctly…Dolph Lundgren). His story as the fallen pawn of communism and the relationship with his son is poignant and beautiful and I still can’t believe I’m writing these words but Lundgren deserves consideration for best supporting actor. I was nearly moved to tears as Ivan Drago watches his son take a beating, and makes a pivotal decision. It’s a beautiful and sad moment that made me wonder who the underdog really is.
So, even if you kind of already know the outcome, Creed II is worth a trip to the theater this holiday weekend, if only to work off some of the Thanksgiving dinner as you cheer on the underdogs, yet again.
Creed II Trailer