Creed’s son is played by Michael B. Jordan, re-teaming with his Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the somewhat meandering screenplay with Aaron Covington. Jordan’s fine, as is (dead ringer for a young Lisa Bonet) Tessa Thompson as his love interest, a DJ called Bianca. They have a funny moment on a couch that is capped by a slow pan up to a turtle, his neck and head vein-poppingly erect in the most blatant and risible phallic symbol I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.
Stallone’s fine too, looking stocky and well. It’s impossible to guess his age now; he seems to have moved into an ageless twilight for the well-built. Perhaps thanks to Coogler, this time around he enunciates enough for us to understand every single one of his lines, perhaps a career first.
The best – and topically authentic-feeling – slice of the film is the antagonist opponent, Englishman “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, played exceptionally by three time ABA Heavyweight Champion Tony Bellew (as is his his trainer/manager played by Scottish Graham McTavish, who was also in Rambo). Unlike Rocky IV’s cold-war side-taking, England itself is not here singled out for villainy, even as Conlan kind of is. His cold murderous pre-fight stare is truly terrifying, and the press conference scenes echo many we’ve seen in real life, but more articulately. This is a boxing movie with a surprisingly good vocabulary.