Netflix UK film review: Creed II
Ivan Radford | On 30, Mar 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Steve Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Watch Creed II online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
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When Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then …
“If you want to change things in a big way, then you gotta make some big changes.” That’s the sound of Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) giving advice to Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) in Creed II. The sequel to the unexpected, and unexpectedly good, franchise reboot, it continues the Rocky saga one generation down the line – but if Creed succeeded because it was a story of moving on and paying it forwards, Creed II loses some of that momentum and power by continuing to look backwards to the past.
It’s telling that the script (from Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor) doesn’t start with Creed but with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren, reprising his role) and his son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) – and, sure enough, it’s only a matter of time until the Dragos challenge WBC World Heavyweight Champion Creed to a face-off. It’s equally telling that before we see Adonis in the ring once more, we first see him off-stage talking to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Creed II is a film that ducks and weaves with its own strengths and weaknesses, making one right step, then feinting in the wrong direction.
The central conflict between the two sons of these father figures is a compelling enough premise, but it’s one that’s slave to the saga’s history, rather than thinking about its future: the strongest parts of Creed II aren’t on the mat at all, but in the apartment of Adonis and Bianca, or in the heart-to-heart exchanges between Bolboa and his protege. Creed packed a punch because it balanced its old and new protagonists perfectly, giving Stallone a chance to shine without letting Rocky steal the show. Sly is once again deceptively brilliant in his character’s well-worn shoes, conveying big emotions and years of regrets and hopes with the smallest of shrugs and glances. But if we get Sly the actor back at his prime, we also get Sly the writer, and this follow-up feels more like fan service than an organic continuation of the Adonis and Rocky story.
Ryan Coogler, who placed character centre-stage in Creed, may have departed from the helm, but director Steven Caple Jr. takes the delicately observed stretches of screenplay surrounding Bianca, Rocky and Adonis and ensures that the intimacy and warmth of their moments still have real impact. Jordan and Thompson, in particular, are superb together, and their relationship, from half-heard questions to silent glances, rings with convincing naturalism.
Lundgren, too, has an imposing presence as the returning Drago, and boxer Florian Munteanu as Viktor certainly knows how to throw an intimidating punch. But the real tension lies away from the boxing, from Donnie trying to learn to commit and focus on life with his gloves off, and Rocky with his own family ties. Creed II undoes some of Creed’s big changes by stepping back to safe, familiar territory, but when it has its eyes on the personal prize, this sequel still delivers a moving blow.
Creed II is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.