With the son of Drago showing up in Creed II – and a real live Dr Evil in the Kremlin – the beasts from the east are having a menacing resurgence
‘I must break you.” Four words of chilling Slavic intent were enough to cement the reputation of one of the iconic Russian villains: Ivan Drago, man-mountain adversary in Rocky IV. Whatever lip service Sylvester Stallone paid in the film to US-Russian detente was instantly undone by giving Dolph Lundgren’s Drago, one of the most hilariously 2D characterisations ever: Euclidean of flat-top, body seemingly carved from Urals granite and only occasionally polysyllabic (usually when threatening his opponent), he gives poor Apollo Creed the boxing equivalent of a month’s bombardment at Stalingrad: “If he dies, he dies.”
Drago followed in the line of big-screen Russian evildoers that kicked off in the cold war with From Russia with Love’s Rosa Klebb in 1963, only petering out in the late 90s with lazy reworkings of the Soviet bogeyman like Gary Oldman in Air Force One. Now, with Drago lining up a rematch for his son Viktor in Creed II, the time has never seemed riper for the return of the Russian baddie. With the Kremlin occupied by someone of true machiavellian stature, invading neighbouring countries, assassinating dissidents with arcane poisons, sapping the foundations of international democracy, Vladimir Putin has all boxes ticked on the malefactor’s charter. He has even begun to look a little like Dr Evil – twinkle of self-amusement included.