In a week where sequels are coming up short compared to the original, this follow-up to 2015’s surprise hit follows the same form despite having its moments.

Having seen Rocky IV with my Dad as an eight-year-old boy – at Hinckley Odeon in 1985 to be exact – this has more naturally in common with that than the first Creed. Mainly that if Creed was closer to Rocky in critical acclaim – then Creed II is the equivalent to Rocky IV in the same bracket, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

After director Ryan Coogler impressed with the first film – which actually got him the Black Panther gig – with a nuanced and compelling boxing tale that had plenty of smarts, this is more generic by comparison, offering a double-boxing match scenario that we saw with Sly Stallone’s Rocky vs ‘Clubber’ Lang in Rocky III.

That ghost is former arch-nemesis Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – who lost everything after being exiled to the former Soviet Union state of Ukraine after his defeat to Rocky – reappearing with his son Viktor (boxer Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu), and desperate to regain his former glory vicariously through his son.

He’s also the man who killed Adonis’ father Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring at the start of the fourth instalment – which makes this a mouth-watering situation to any promoter.

So when Adonis gets goaded into taking the fight by newcomer Viktor – he is left to go it alone when Rocky wants no part of the contest – and mentally and physically unprepared takes one hell of a beating that leaves him with broken ribs and a ruptured kidney.

Throw into the mix that his new fiancée Bianca (Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson) is pregnant with their baby daughter – it leaves Adonis hiding away in turmoil as he desperately tries to come to terms with the outcome of the bout.

Predictably – which is one of Creed II’s biggest downfalls – Rocky returns to his side with a rigorous desert-set hardcore training routine to pull Adonis back into shape for the inevitable re-match in yep, you guessed it, Russia.

With some nice continuity touches for fanboys – like cameos from Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla Drago from IV and Milo Ventimiglia’s Robert Balboa from the sixth Rocky film – it does come together in a tidily heartwarming fashion, with a couple of standout moments to get the emotion-meter rising.

But unlike the first film it never gets close to delivering a knockout punch – and the Rocky/Drago side story could have been fleshed out a little more – but still gets a favourable decision on points.

Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

Cast: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Brigitte Nielsen & Milo Ventimiglia

Running Time: 2 Hrs10 Mins

Director: Steven Caple Jr

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