Grappling with the legacy of their fathers in boxing, Adonis Creed and Viktor Drago fight for the honors of their lineage while struggling to find out what boxing means to them beyond the legacies of their fathers.
It seems almost fitting that a sequel to 2015’s “Creed” with such dramatic exaggeration would derive itself from plot points from “Rocky IV,” one of the most exaggerated entries of the original series. “Creed” manages to distinguishing itself through commitment to the human drama rather than pageantry.
Michael B. Jordan continues to build his case for being one of the best leading men in Hollywood today by portraying a more experienced Donnie, unafraid to be a bit more egotistically flawed while seeming adrift in his newfound fame, questioning if his fighting career is everything that he wants out of life. The danger becomes more real as his family life becomes stake in a fight he can’t bring himself to back down from, while Stallone continues his evolution as mentor and trainer in the position of Rocky Balboa himself, who brought me the closest to tears in theaters than I can recall in some time.
The character drama not only carries the film but enhances the action in the ring as some of these fights are among the most brutal beat downs put to screen. The first fight between Drago and Creed in particular is a nightmare of anticipation that made me flinch more than the most graphic sequences in war movies, in turn making their final fight one of the most suspenseful and satisfying set pieces I’ve sat through all year.
“Creed II” is most definitely a formulaic movie as far as sports dramas go. But the film leans into its formatting as a tool of engagement for storytelling in ways less formulaic movies take for granted. The most cartoonish the movie gets is the final training montage, featuring a regimen so questionable it belongs in a “Rocky” parody more than an actual successor. Even so the ebb and flow of things doesn’t feel so bad because it's easy to invest in characters that feel this real. The only flaw to that format is the areas it could have improved, like more explicit characterization for the Dragos and their tragic circumstances, hinted at but never explored. It’s the only moment where the film’s sense of contentment seems to hold it back from a higher level of unexpected greatness.
“Creed II” warrants a viewing as it's perhaps the best crowd pleaser in theaters at this moment.
4 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.