Movie review: Satisfactory 'Creed II' settles old scores

It's "Rocky IV 2" as "Creed" sequel revisits the 1985 Cold War classic

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Like a fighter in the eighth round, "Creed II" is a bit wobbly on its feet, but it gets through the fight without throwing in the towel.  

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in "Creed II."

Ostensibly a sequel to "Rocky IV," "Creed II" settles old scores from that 1985 Cold War classic. But the formula it follows is familiar, and its in-ring storytelling lacks punch. 

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is heavyweight champ, and he's challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Viktor is the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the Russian beast who killed Creed's father in the ring in "Rocky IV," leading up to the elder Drago's marquee showdown with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). 

So there's two generations of storylines at play, which gives "Creed II" plenty to dance with inside the ropes. Yet the buildup to the Creed-Drago showdown is rushed, and "Creed II" spends much of its time with Creed wrestling his inner turmoil and looking to find his fire again. 

There's a meet-up between Ivan and Rocky inside Rocky's Philadelphia restaurant that simmers, but feels undercooked. The dramatic weight is shifted to the younger fighters, yet Viktor is all brute force and no depth, and is underdeveloped as a character. 

"Creed II" is better on the home front, as Adonis and Bianca (the excellent Tessa Thompson) focus on starting a family. Their domestic strife is where the heart of the film lies. 

Director Steven Caple Jr. ("The Land") gives everything a solemn feel — a pall even hangs over the film's marquee training montage — and "Creed II" misses the touch of Ryan Coogler, who directed 2015's "Creed" and coaxed an electrifying performance out of Jordan in this year's "Black Panther." "Creed II" goes the distance, but it lacks the knockout punch of its 2015 and 1985 predecessors.


'Creed II'


Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality

Running time: 128 minutes