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George At 

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When CREED was released three years ago, it blew me away as a modern extension of the Rocky franchise and a hell of a boxing movie.

CREED II climbs into the ring and delivers an excellent punch of its own.

The premise could have been hokey. You have to hearken back to "Rocky IV" in 1984 for its roots. I have VERY fond memories of seeing that movie in a packed theatre in all its ripped Stallone, USA v Russia, snowy training montage glory. But it's also the film that pushed the series dangerously close to self parody in its 80's excess.

In that film, Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed in the ring and Rocky traveled to Russia to battle the monstrous Drago and avenge his friends death.

It's 34 years later, Apollo's son Adonis Creed (an incredibly good Michael B. Jordan) is battling his way through lesser contenders as the Heavyweight champ.

The past comes calling in the massive form of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan, still played in a surprisingly good performance by Dolph Lundgren.

They and their promoter want the boxing match for the ages, CREED and DRAGO in the ring, with Adonis set to avenge his Father's death.

As with the first film, what makes CREED II special is the personal story behind the characters. Adonis and his fiance Bianca, well played by Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarock, Annihilation) are making a journey toward parenthood while Adonis deals with his father's legacy and his role in it.

At the film's center is another excellent performance by Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. He looks old, he looks beaten. Every word from him is carefully chosen and delivered with perfection by Stallone. It's every bit as strong a performance as his Oscar nominated turn in Creed.

The journey that Adonis and Rocky take together here is heartfelt and also a KILLER sports movie on top of the personal story.

The boxing matches are incredibly well staged.

There are surprise appearances from the past films that I certainly wont spoil here, but they are GREAT and bring back great memories of past installments.

By the time we're back in Russia in the boxing ring, with composer Ludwig Goransson's (Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther) modern take on Bill Conti's Rocky theme music swelling over the action, you realize the filmmakers have done the impossible and delivered another knockout Rocky movie.

Nostalgic, dramatic, well balanced between quiet personal moments and violent battles in the ring, CREED II gets an A.

It's closing five minutes are just about perfect.

As Rocky fans might say, "Yo Stallone and Jordan, YOU DID IT!"

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