There’s something about the CREED franchise that keeps audiences coming back for more. Neither of the first two installments is brilliantly written – the first CREED film is just a continuation of the ROCKY franchise while CREED II is a parallel of ROCKY IV – but the films do have interesting characters, they’re well acted and they’re well made. With CREED III, the franchise finally breaks free from its ROCKY roots with a story that’s all about Adonis/Donnie (Michael B. Jordan, BLACK PANTHER) and his past.
It’s now three years since Donnie retired from boxing, though he’s still actively involved in the business. Out of his Delphi Boxing Academy, the next generation of young boxers are being trained by his long-time friend, Tony “Little Duke” Evers (Wood Harris, TV’s EMPIRE). Donnie is also the promoter for world champion Felix Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.). His wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson, the THOR films), has also seen a career shift of late. Her hearing issues have meant that she has had to give up performing. She now produces others and, like Donnie, she’s been very successful at it. The couple also stays busy being parents to their hearing-impaired daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), and keeping a watchful eye over Donnie’s adoptive mother, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad, TV’s THE COSBY SHOW), who has developed some health issues.
One day, Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA; TV’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY), a close friend from Donnie’s childhood, shows up at the Delphi. Dame, who was a Golden Gloves champion back in the day, has just been released from 18 years in prison and he wants to make up for lost time. Donnie agrees to let him spar with Chavez but it turns out that Dame is a dirty fighter, which draws a rebuke from Duke. When Chavez’s next title fight, against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu, CREED II), suddenly hits a snag, Donnie suggests that Dame fight Chavez for the belt even though he’s an amateur. Events, though, don’t go as planned and Donnie realises that he must step back into the ring to make things right again.
CREED III follows the well-beaten path of its predecessors – the story doesn’t pull any punches (sorry, I couldn’t resist) but the characters are interesting, it’s well acted and it’s well made. The film doesn’t waste a scene either, with its runtime coming in at a very lean and mean 116 minutes. Jordan, in his directorial debut, does a stellar job putting the audience ringside. Just like the other CREED films, the fight scenes here are impeccably choreographed and shot, and you might just find yourself wincing with every blow that the boxers deliver. Majors has an explosive left hook and I’m amazed that Jordan didn’t get hurt during the filming. The film’s obligatory training montage is just as impressive with Jordan pulling an airplane and Majors climbing up two ropes at the same time. As for Majors, what an immense talent he is! He has the intensity of a young Al Pacino and the range of a Christian Bale, grabbing the audience’s attention right from the first scene and never letting go. As Dame, Majors slurs his words together as if speech is something that is only used when his posturing and body language aren’t communicating his message clearly enough. In the boxing ring, he exudes primal rage. For Dame, it’s more than the fight. It’s the release of his pent up anger for being locked up for so many years. It’s powerful to watch and Jordan captures it all like a seasoned pro. Majors seems to be Hollywood’s Next Big Thing and movie audiences will be seeing a lot more of the actor in the coming years with his turn as MARVEL’s latest supervillain, Kang the Conqueror. His newest film, MAGAZINE DREAMS, premiered in January at Sundance and is already getting awards buzz for next year.
CREED III is playing now in Hong Kong and in major markets around the world. It is hugely entertaining and may just be the best CREED film yet. Go see it!
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