I guess Sylvester Stallone was a bit jilted when he was passed over for Best Supporting Actor for 2015's "Creed". I say that because he sure did beef up his role in this sequel, so much so it could easily be re-titled "Rocky VII, Creed II."


Thgis one picks up 30 years after "Rocky IV" and a few years after "Creed". Adonis Creed Johnson (Michael Jordan) is getting ready for another fight while also dealing with his gal Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Rocky's (Stallone) cliches about boxing and life.


The film shifts location to current Russia where we find Rocky's old foe Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) living in poverty as a society cast away while his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) starts racking up boxing victories as a brutal boxer much like his dad. The ongoing message here is the old Roman saying that all glory is fleeting.

Viktor challenges Adonis to a fight - a revenge of the revenge fight, which Adonis is compelled to accept. He will avenge Viktor's father killing his dad while Viktor plans to avenge Rocky for sending his dad to skid row. The challenge is made by Drago in Adrians Restaurant... he blames everything on Rocky; especially the losss of his leggy wife Lumilla (Brigitte Nielsen)


Meanwhile, poignant moments are created between Bianca and Adonis as he prepares to propose even as she is dealing with being a singer who is losing her hearing. They have good chemistry that echos the chemistry between Rocky and Adrian.


All this leads up to what every one wants to see... the big fight. It's what makes the Rocky films what they are, no matter who is wearing the boxing shorts. In fact I could easily see another sequel with Bianca taking on Ludmilla. Who could happen.


Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau does a capable job of capturing the intimate moments better than the fight scenes, in my opinion. But its missing the gut wrenching scenes that Maryse Alberti provided.


One good thing is that the film avoids the current political situation and the status between Russia and the United States.


"Creed II" is not quite as good as the original as it eases back into being a continuation of the Rocky franchise instead of standing own its own feet. But nifty acting turns by Dolph Lundgren and Michael Jordan keep this boxing series vital.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON