Review – An In-Creed-able Performance (“Creed II”)

In a movie that harkens back to 1985’s Rocky IV, this sequel pulls out characters from the Rocky franchise past, rather than going forward and creating a whole new story. Either that’s lazy writing or it’s breathing new life into this new franchise in order to gain popularity for a future generation. You decide.


Remember Rocky IV? That’s where Apollo Creed was killed by the hulking Russian super-boxer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Our hero, Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone), naturally saved the day and beating the crap outta Drago, thus showing them Russkies! We now fast-forward 33 years and Apollo’s son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has become a damn fine boxer himself, as we witnessed in 2015’s Creed. But even after winning the World Heavyweight Championship AND proposing to his long-time girlfriend, semi-deaf hip-hop singer Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), things just can’t get any easier for the young fighter.

Over in the Ukraine, there’s a merciless storm brewing, and his name is Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago. He’s a behemoth of boxing muscle and sinew that beats others up without mercy. . .y’know, just like daddy did. Well, faster than you can say ‘plot advancement’, along comes slick boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby) to bring the rascally Russians to the USA to face down Creed in an obvious “reunion” match-up. But THIS time around, Rocky wants nothing to do with the fight and won’t train the boy, having the guilt of Apollo still on his mind.

So, as boxing formats go, the standard trope transpires: Creed gets his butt handed to him in the ring, he comes back after nearly dying, he enters his “do I or don’t I want this?” phase, he goes into a new rigorous workout regime with Rocky as his come-back trainer (cue the training montage, TYVM), and then on to the rematch fight, but in Russia, like in Rocky IV. In-between there’s Creed’s struggle with his health, his mom (Phylicia Rashad), and being a new father. Yeah, you’ve seen it all before in practically every boxing movie ever made, but in this one you’ve got something special. History.

First-time screenwriter Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone have done the impossible, written a script that not only honors the past without making a mockery of it, but has given heart to the characters in the present. Just seeing Ivan Drago and Rocky have a conversation after all these years is both gripping and sad at the same time. Sure, the storyline writes itself and is predictable as hell, but credit the actors and director Steven Caple, jr for delivering a highly watchable and entertaining movie that moves with a purpose. The boxing scenes are gruesome and very believable, with major kudos going to Jordan for getting hurt in the process. You can’t film something like this and NOT get injured!

Stallone IS Rocky Balboa, the old father-figure with an earnest soul that can’t help but be a mentor to Jordan who, with his superb acting, really deserves an Oscar for this role. Then you have Lundgren, who after years of doing lousy straight-to-DVD movies, proves the man can still act when given a meaty little role like this. And check out real-life boxer Florian Munteanu’s theatrical debut; he is scary-good with muscles in different time zones. Also, look for a cameo by Brigitte Nielsen (Stallone’s ex-wife) reprising her role as Drago’s wife.


Rocky IV (1985)

I guess it was inevitable that somewhere in the Rocky franchise writer/director Sly Stallone had to hiccup and deliver a less than quality film. Well, he did and this was it. Just like Christopher Reeve wanting to “make a statement” with his dreadful Superman IV: Quest For Peace, Stallone did the same here.

It’s been the sweet life for Rocky Balboa (Stallone), his loving wife, Adrian (Talia Shire), and their young son (Rocky Krakoff). Even that pathetic slob of a brother-n-law, Paulie (Burt Young), gets an A.I robot for his birthday! But all is not well in the good ol’ USA as an elite boxing team from Russia comes here to taunt our reigning champ with their super-enhanced boxer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Looks like Ivan, juiced up on God-knows-what and rarely speaking, is a pretty scary looking guy. His manager, Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki) insists that NO ONE can beat him; even Ivan’s too-tall wife, Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen–future wife of Stallone) agrees.

However, Rocky’s BFF Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants a piece of the Russkie first, so a promotional fight is held with all the pomp and glamour that Creed has to offer, inclu-ding James Brown singing his Living In America hit song! But all that fanfare doesn’t help when Ivan kills Apollo in the ring. Well, so much for a promotional fight, huh? Rocky, enraged by guilt and the Soviets’ cold indifference to Apollo’s death, challenges Drago to a fight… in Russia… on Christmas Day. Naturally, Adrian thinks he’s crazy and vows NOT to support him (until she eventually does in the third act like she always does).

So, it’s off to the USSR he goes and cues the rigorous training montage: running in the freezing cold, working out in the snow, chopping wood, etc. while Drago trains with his super hi-tech computer equipment stuff. The day of the fight comes and (surprise! sur-prise!) Adrian shows up to see him be victorious over Ivan and, in the movies most unin-tentionally hilarious scene, we hear Rocky deliver to the Russian crowd the most heart-felt and dumbest speech you’ve ever heard.

Even though this movie got thrashed by the critics, it made more money than the other Rocky films! Go figure. It easily won five Golden Raspberry Awards; Worst Picture and Worst Actor (Stallone), amongst them. You could tell that Stallone was really pushing the envelope in this lame story, coming up with an inferior plot and characters and what to do with them. His seasoned Rocky Balboa was now a punchline to a series of jokes, making this movie almost his swan-song in the franchise.

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