Eppler: "Creed II" plays the "Rocky" hits well - FOX34 Lubbock

Eppler: "Creed II" plays the "Rocky" hits well

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The "Rocky" series has been like the character Rocky Balboa himself: just when you think he might be down, he comes roaring back. It was especially surprising a few years ago when the played-out series got a spin-off with "Creed," centering on Apollo Creed's son played by Michael B. Jordan (cementing his status as the real deal actor of his generation), and earning Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination for his signature character (he was robbed, by the way). 

On paper, "Creed" should not have been as fantastic as it was. Part of the reason is it was working as a deconstruction of the "Rocky" formula, but in "Creed II," we're back to doing the hits (no pun intended). It's still pretty good, even working with a dumb idea. This time Creed is baited into a fight with the son of Ivan Drago, who killed his Dad in the ring in "Rocky IV." 

"Creed II" plays out exactly as you'd expect, but it goes through the motions really well. The biggest surprise is how this movie revisits one of the corniest Rocky entries and turns its cartoonish superhuman Russian villain into a real person with Dolph Lundgren, one of this movie's MVPs.

The other MVP is Tessa Thompson, refusing to simply be the on-looking, fretting woman for her man's ambitions. Hers is a passionate performance, staking her claim to this story.

There's some stilted dialogue in the screenplay Stallone co-wrote, and Rocky gets an emotional payoff side story that feels extra, but "Creed II" is still another solid entry for this long-running series. The formula still works. I'm already here for "Creed III."

EPPLER'S RATING: * * * 

RATING SCALE

* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful  - The worst, an insult to movies

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