The weakest of all the Rocky/Creed movies, Creed II follows Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed as he reluctantly agrees to fight the son (Florian Munteanu’s Viktor Drago) of Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) old nemesis (Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago) – with the narrative also focusing on Adonis’ relationship with Tessa Thompson’s Bianca and their various struggles. Filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. has infused Creed II with an exceedingly (and often excessively) subdued feel that tends to prevent the viewer from working up much interest in or enthusiasm for the central character’s exploits, with the hands-off atmosphere compounded by an almost impossibly deliberate pace and an absurdly padded-out running time of 130 minutes (!). The ongoing emphasis on Creed’s domestic exploits with his girlfriend-turned-wife certainly plays a key role in cementing the movie’s downfall, as the majority of such scenes suffer from an overly (and needlessly) somber feel that obliterates anything resembling momentum within the proceedings – with the picture’s second half, and its focus on Creed and Bianca’s attempts at starting a family, faring especially poorly and paving the way for a closing stretch that’s nothing short of interminable. It doesn’t help, certainly, that Caple Jr. somehow manages to bungle the film’s various training and boxing sequences, as the director’s styleless approach to Sylvester Stallone and Juel Taylor’s paint-by-numbers screenplay only highlights just how familiar all of this is – with the end result a been-there-done-that followup that brings virtually nothing new to the table.
** out of ****