Creed II

Rated 3.0

Thirty-three years removed from the moronic Rocky IV, the Rocky franchise says hello again to Ivan Drago (a weathered Dolph Lundgren) and his boxing son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) with Creed II, the follow up to Ryan Coogler’s excellent Creed. Coogler has not returned, replaced by Steven Caple, Jr., in the director’s chair. Michael B. Jordan and Stallone are back, doing pretty much what they did in chapter one, which is not a bad thing. Creed II doesn’t break any new ground and represents a step backward from the astonishingly good Creed, but it’s still a lot of fun. This surprises me, because it dares to take the ridiculous story of Ivan Drago and expand upon it. While the first three Rocky movies were true sports underdog movies with credibility, Rocky IV was a moronic play on ’80s patriotism and Cold War fears. Drago was a cartoon character and Rocky had become one, too. That final image of Rocky wrapped in an American flag had me grinding my teeth. Creed II tries to make Drago a real person, a defeated man living in shame for decades after losing to Rocky. His loss to Rocky came after killing Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring, so when Drago comes looking for a fight using his young, up-and-comer son Viktor, Adonis Creed (Jordan) can’t help but take notice. He’s got a score to settle, and he wants Rocky in his corner. Sound stupid? It is a little bit, but Caple, Jr., manages to continue the authentic vibe of Creed, even with the Dragos back in the ring. Lundgren actually gives one of the film’s best performances, his sense of humiliation oozing from his pores as he tries to regain former glory and the love of his estranged wife (Brigitte Nielson). Caple, Jr., and his screenwriters, which include Stallone, manage to make Drago a real character rather than a stereotype. They lose the whole U.S. versus Russia shtick and focus on the characters, resulting in a decent boxing movie.