This sequel to the 1976 classic picks up directly where the first one ended, but it’s hard not to notice that the screenplay is awkward and self-conscious. It makes the movie’s first half hour or so a little difficult to sit through because it doesn’t seem to understand what made the first movie so powerful (which is surprising given that this sequel is written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote the first one). Eventually however, the plot kicks in and things start getting better: Stallone’s Rocky gradually starts to feel like the same character again after a rough start, and slowly but surely his charming performance manages to enrapture the audience again. As Rocky tries to find meaningful employment following his bout with Apollo Creed, Stallone (as director) lets the story breathe comfortably, and the by the time Rocky is training for an inevitable rematch with Creed, he’s got the audience on his side once again. The finale here is just as effective as the climax of the first movie thanks to extraordinary editing, and even though it’s predictable it’s totally engrossing and suspenseful. Stallone’s screenplay short shifts many of the supporting characters (in particular Talia Shire’s Adrian and Burt Young’s Paulie), but its focus on making Carl Weathers’s Creed a rather insecure figure sets up an inarguably engaging dynamic between the two boxers. All in all, it’s not a great movie but it’s a pretty good one once you’ve gotten past the awkward first chunk.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)