March 3, 2024

Film Review: Creed III

4 Stars
By Joseph Beyer | April 8, 2023

It was hard to imagine that a boxing film—one of cinema’s most predictable and enduring genres—could still hold surprises for audiences, but that’s exactly what happened in 2015 when a young director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Black Panther) and actor Michael B. Jordan (People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive alum) created the character of Adonis “Donnie” Creed, a young boxer with enormous natural talents who struggles to control personal demons that audiences could all relate to.

If it sounds familiar, it should. And if you missed the earlier generations of the famed Rocky franchise created by Sylvester Stallone—an early indie film maverick just like Coogler—you won’t need them here to love Creed III, though the older films do add echoes to a growing storyscape that feels like they were meant to work together. Both Stallone and Coogler are continuing producers on the Creed spinoffs.

Michael B. Jordan not only stars in Creed III but also acts as the director, just as Stallone did in 1971. Jordan shows true creativity behind the camera while still remaining restrained and true to the themes that defined the Rocky films and showed that there was real power in the most quiet and personal moments.

It’s the ghosts of his past that haunt Creed in this movie installment, launching a kind of Cape Fear-style stalking and a Romulus versus Remus faceoff which he can’t shake until he confronts pain he has hidden his whole life. A remix of Dr. Dre’s “The Watcher” opens the Los Angeles based narrative’s score, which explores society’s jealousy and voyeurism as well as the wild extremes between the lucky and the not.

This bout features Damian “Dame” Anderson, a Compton street brawler. Actor Jonathan Majors delivers a haunting performance of Diamond Dame reminiscent of Mr. T’s focused fierceness as Clubber Lang in Rocky III. In some of the most tense sequences of the film, Anderson’s rage flows out into violent determination you can feel through the screen with each thundering punch.

From there, the PG-13 plot takes some wild leaps of logic, but it doesn’t matter much because the film still delivers the central promise of a personal grudge-match while oscillating between vendetta and forgiveness, heart pounding training sequences, and the final tension-filled showdown title fight set in Dodger Stadium.

There’s also a stellar ensemble cast that includes actors Tessa Thompson as Creed’s partner and wife, real-life boxer José Benavidez Jr., and Wood Harris as the trainer, among others. And Phylicia Rashad in the last onscreen performance connecting the franchise to the brilliant memory of Carl Weathers as the original Apollo Creed.

What I remembered most was the film’s patient investment in the young character Amara, who is deaf, brought to life by Mila Davis-Kent. Creed’s daughter and namesake uses her direct line of fighter energy in a way only her father can understand, and I am excited to see if Apollo’s granddaughter might be the next champion in the family.

Note: The film is out nationwide and worth a spin on the big-screen but also available at home during the premium window for $20-25. (Check your streaming services for details.)

 

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