Creed II

 

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Producer, co-writer and co-star Sylvester Stallone is now 72 and his Rocky VIII reflects the old man’s dwindling energy level.

   
Creed II

Water works: Michael B. Jordan

 

Like horror and the musical, the boxing film has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, what with Journeyman, Jawbone, Southpaw and, indeed, Creed. Whilst showcasing a new pugilist, Creed (2015) was really Rocky VII, with Sylvester Stallone stepping up to the plate as producer and, surprise, surprise, Rocky Balboa. Then 69, Stallone’s Balboa took on the mantle of trainer to Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s old rival and friend. The film’s ace card was its writer-director Ryan Coogler, who brought a fresh energy and realism to the old franchise. Since then, Coogler has gone on to direct Black Panther which, in the US, has become the highest-grossing film of 2018.

 

Here, Coogler serves as executive producer, with Stallone reprising his duties as producer and co-lead, while co-writing the screenplay with Juel Taylor. And so, under the direction of Steven Caple Jr, we slip back into old Rocky territory in which this time Adonis is forced to settle another old score, by defending his World Heavyweight title against the Russian behemoth, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Viktor is the son of the mighty Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Adonis’s father in the ring. But when Ivan was defeated by Rocky, he lost everything: his career, his home, his wife and his self-respect. And now he wants retribution by getting his son to destroy Rocky’s new protégé. But there’s a hitch: Rocky refuses to coach Adonis for the big fight.

 

To call the film predictable would be to understate the matter. Creed II is as mechanical as a Meccano set. It’s also surprisingly slack and low-key, with even the mandatory training montage a rather under-whelming affair. Having just proposed to his pregnant girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Adonis would seem to have other things on his mind, even when he’s lifting weights underwater and exposing his abs to repeated pummelling by a weighted slam ball. But, as we all know, it’s not how fit and strong you are, in the ring it’s your state of mind that matters…

 

A familiar mix of the formulaic and the improbable, Creed II doesn’t even bear scrutiny on a routine level. Bianca’s degenerative hearing loss doesn’t convince, any more than Rocky terminating a telephone call to open a letter that he’s just found on his dining room table (he lives on his own). The film is full of little things that just don’t make sense, undermining its credibility at every turn. While some of the boxing sequences muster a modicum of adrenalin, on the whole they, too, feel overly contrived, which makes this perfunctory addition to the canon feel more like a reflex action than a genuine re-match.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Brigitte Nielsen, Milo Ventimiglia.

 

Dir Steven Caple Jr, Pro Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler and Irwin Winkler, Screenplay Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone, Ph Kramer Morgenthau, Pro Des Franco-Giacomo Carbone, Ed Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider and Paul Harb, Music Ludwig Göransson, Costumes Lizz Wolf.

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/New Line Cinema-Warner Bros.

129 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 30 November 2018. Cert. 12A.