Creed II: Kid Rocky heads to Russia for a Cold War rematch

by James Robins / 07 December, 2018
Made in the waning days of the Cold War, Rocky IV was shameless propaganda. It saw the Italian Stallion (Sylvester Stallone) in his stars and stripes trunks avenge the murder of Apollo Creed by thumping the Soviet strongman Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Reagan would’ve whooped for joy.

Now, we have a rematch. Adonis Creed, son of Apollo (Michael B Jordan), squares up to Drago’s hulking offspring Viktor (Florian Munteanu). Rocky and Ivan, the two faded former champions, are in their respective corners. But this is no rinse-and-repeat, for Creed II is about more than superpower combat: it’s about fathers and sons.

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Boxing movies are formulaic by definition. The trick is in outsmarting the formula, which Creed II does rather well. Steven Caple Jr’s film, in part penned by Stallone, builds from the impressive virtuosity of Ryan Coogler’s first Creed: bigger, brawnier, and deeper.

Although there’s nothing to match the startlingly choreographed three-minute single-take round from the first film, the fights sound brutal and punishing; thunderclaps, not punches. Of course, a fight is worthless unless there’s something to fight for. Even a tinge of emotional authenticity can go a long way.

Stallone, Jordan, and yes, even Lundgren, bring a pointed vulnerability to their roles – a rather daring thing to do in a series about undiluted heroism. Humiliation can be devastating, identity hard to grasp, fatherhood loaded with anxieties. As one character quips: “The belt ain’t enough. You need a narrative.”

Video: MGM

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

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