Here’s an attempt to evoke nearly every part of the 40-year-old Rocky saga—from its low-key character study roots, through its jingo-heavy 1980s era, right up to Ryan Coogler’s grittier 2015 reboot in Creed—and somehow makes it mostly work. The central conflict is a spiritual sequel to Rocky IV, as Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) faces the challenge in both his head and in the ring of fighting Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who was responsible for his father Apollo’s death during a fight. The script—co-written by Sylvester Stallone, who of course returns as Rocky Balboa—tries to keep a lot of balls in the air, from Adonis’ relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson), to Ivan’s attempt to redeem his loss to Rocky through his son. And while director Steven Caple Jr. lacks the prowling dynamism of Coogler behind the camera, the movie finds a solid emotional core in people trying to make peace with the legacy of the past. The strong performances by Jordan and Stallone—the latter of whom still creates the old lovably simple Rocky with more than his porkpie hat—make this a nostalgia trip that’s also interested in moving forward.
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Producer: Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler, Ryan Coogler, Michael Jordan and Guy Riedel
Cast: Michael Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian "Big Nasty" Munteanu, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, Milo Ventimiglia, Robbie Johns, Andre Ward, Brigitte Nielsen, Patrice "Boogey" Harris, Jacob "Stitch" Duran and Ana Gerena