Jor­dan still packs a punch

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Creed II (12A) ●●●●● The first Creed movie sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions to pack a punch with both au­di­ences and crit­ics alike.

Tap­ping into tra­di­tion while de­liv­er­ing in its own right, it would have worked just fine as a stand­alone out­ing; how­ever, in this era of fran­chises and ex­tended uni­verses a se­quel was in­evitable.

Creed II takes aim at Rocky fans’ nos­tal­gic feel­ings even more than its pre­de­ces­sor by putting Michael B. Jor­dan’s Ado­nis on a col­li­sion course with Vik­tor Drago (Flo­rian Mun­teanu), son of Ivan (Dolph Lund­gren) – the man who killed Ado­nis’ fa­ther Apollo.

This is as much a be­lated fol­low-up to 1985’s Rocky IV as the next in­stal­ment of the Creed se­ries and the raw emo­tion pro­vided by the fa­ther-son dy­namic – with Sylvester Stal­lone’s re­turn­ing Rocky fill­ing in for Apollo as Ado­nis’ fig­u­ra­tive old man – is in­tense.

Ryan Coogler’s ster­ling work on Mar­vel’s Black Pan­ther meant he had to va­cate the di­rec­tor’s chair this time around; not to worry, though, as re­place­ment Steven Caple Jr makes such a fine fist of things the tran­si­tion is pretty seam­less.

This may be Caple Jr’s first main­stream cine­matic ef­fort but the 30-year-old shows cre­ativ­ity and flair be­hind the cam­era.

The box­ing scenes in par­tic­u­lar bet­ter the first film’s as Caple Jr takes all the el­e­ments of Rocky’s finest bouts and gives them a mod­ern twist be­fit­ting suc­ces­sor Ado­nis.

Jor­dan is dy­na­mite once again, ex­hibit­ing ten­der­ness with girl­friend Bianca (a won­der­ful Tessa Thomp­son), ban­ter, frus­tra­tion and warmth with Rocky and in­ner rage and fever­ish phys­i­cal­ity towards the Dra­gos.

Stal­lone, who also co-wrote the screen­play and at one point seemed set to di­rect, doesn’t have as well-rounded a role this time around but his pres­ence is key; he tugs at the heart­strings and brings lev­ity – and the Rocky-ivan face-offs de­liver some se­ri­ous goose­bumps.

Real-life boxer Mun­teanu fares less well. He may be phys­i­cally im­pres­sive, but there’s lit­tle to his char­ac­ter bar his fam­ily ties and he’s not the up­grade on Creed’s pre­vi­ous op­po­nent Tony Bellew – who wasn’t ex­actly a stel­lar foe; part of me wishes Ivan had pulled on the gloves in­stead of his boy.

The emo­tion is still there but there’s no deny­ing Creed II lacks the depth of the pre­vi­ous movie – and Rocky’s best – and the script gets bogged down with a few too many weighty speeches when a cou­ple of words would’ve done just nicely.

No mat­ter what has come be­fore, though, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to get caught up in the crack­ing cli­mac­tic show­down as more than three decades worth of Rocky-flavoured drama comes to the boil in authen­tic, bruis­ing style.

The Rocky se­quels never matched the qual­ity of the orig­i­nal and while Creed II falls short of its pre­de­ces­sor, it’s by no more than a tiny points dif­fer­ence rather than a knock­out blow.

Pass­ing the torch Rocky acts as cor­ner man for Ado­nis

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