Movie review: Boxing sequel fails to live up to its 'Creed'

 
 
Updated 11/23/2018 10:07 AM
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  • Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), left, goes head to head with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) in "Creed II."

    Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), left, goes head to head with Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) in "Creed II." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) worries about not being able to live up to his father's legacy in "Creed II."

    Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) worries about not being able to live up to his father's legacy in "Creed II." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Old boxing foes Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), left, and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) meet again in "Creed II."

    Old boxing foes Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), left, and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) meet again in "Creed II." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"Creed II" - ★ ★

Ryan Coogler's 2015 "Creed" rebooted the "Rocky" franchise with a fresh and metaphorically punchy twist that recast Philly boxer Rocky Balboa as a supporting character coaching the son of the late heavyweight champion who once coached him.

Now under the less-inspired direction of Steven Caple Jr., "Creed II" feels like a compilation of greatest "Rocky" scenes climaxed by a final match so ludicrously cliched that viewers groaned during a Monday screening.

I'm surprised audiences haven't figured out how to tell which boxer will win in a fierce exchange of slow-motion blood-and-spittle spurts.

The boxer who gets the better motivational speech before the bell, that's who.

"Finish him!" Ukrainian coach Ivan Drago (a coldly chiseled Dolph Lundgren) commands his Incredible Hulked-up boxer son Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu).

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) contemplates the ring in "Creed II."
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) contemplates the ring in "Creed II." - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) offers an encouraging "Now you know what you're fighting for!" to his boxer son surrogate, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan).

"Rocky" fans will recognize Ivan Drago as the villainous Ruskie who beat Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to death during a 1985 exhibition match in "Rocky IV." Rocky then humiliated Ivan in an East vs. West boxing match.

For 33 years, Ivan has been plotting his revenge. He believes his son defeating the new world heavyweight champ Adonis Creed, son of Rocky's friend Apollo, will lift his family from disgrace.

Can Creed win? After all, things have happened too fast. Has he traded his passion for glory?

"Creed II" flirts with being a serious father-and-son drama. Adonis Creed worries about living up to his father's heavyweight legacy. Viktor Drago worries about fulfilling his father's dream. Rocky frets over re-establishing ties with his estranged son.

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), right, trains Michael B. Jordan again in "Creed II."
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), right, trains Michael B. Jordan again in "Creed II." - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Although Stallone wrote this screenplay (with Juel Taylor; two others get a "story by" credit), it sadly lacks the quirky, offbeat charm of Stallone's original 1976 Oscar-nominated script.

Here, characters talk to the tombstones of their loved ones, unloading their feelings and regrets. Young Creed's domestic life involves nervously proposing to his lover Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

They go through a pregnancy, suffer a health crisis and rely on Apollo's wife (Phylicia Rashad) for sagely interventions. These lackluster scenes add little to "Creed II" beyond running time.

The original "Rocky" appeal stemmed from its hero's modest goal to "go the distance," not win championships, fame or fortune.

Here, it's all about winning.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), left, gets some last-minute instruction from Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the sequel "Creed II."
Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), left, gets some last-minute instruction from Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the sequel "Creed II." - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"I lost!" Ivan Drago tells his son, explaining why they live in shame and why his wife (original star Brigitte Nielsen) abandoned them.

Creed wonders if Rocky's coaching can help him defeat the Ukrainian challenger.

Rocky quips, "I won, didn't I?"

So why doesn't "Creed II" feel all that winning?

• • •

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad

Directed by: Stephen Caple Jr.

Other: An MGM release. Rated PG-13 for language, sensuality, violence. 130 minutes

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