Adonis has been thriving in both his career and family life, but when a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces, the face-off is more than just a fight.
For his first feature as a director, Michael B. Jordan has taken on a double-edged sword by helming “Creed III.” On the one hand, he’s working in a genre he’s familiar with, supplying the next chapter in the story of a character he’s defined. I would think this would make for a comfortable situation. Yet, he also faced the daunting task of injecting a bit of new life into a well-worn genre piece. I mean, hasn’t the “Rocky” franchise and the two previous “Creed” features covered about every possible scenario that could be imagined in the boxing genre?
That may be the case, but “Creed III” is just as good as any of the “Rocky” sequels, with the exception of “Rocky II.” Screenwriters Zach Baylin (King Richard) and Keenan Coogler, have no problem cribbing elements from previous entries in both franchises, as the antagonist in this film bears a striking resemblance in demeanor and motivation as a certain mohawked adversary of Rocky’s, while the crisis of faith the titular character faces is similar to, every other crisis of faith Balboa or Creed have had to grapple with. Still and all, there are just enough variations on the theme and sincerity employed to make this entry a passable entertainment.
While Creed has retired as the heavyweight champion and established a successful boxing promotion empire, it seems he can’t outrun his past. The reappearance of Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a childhood acquaintance just released after 18 years in prison, dredges up memories he’s willingly forgotten. Seems his former friend was sent up for defending Adonis, who failed to keep in touch with him while he was behind bars. A former Golden Gloves champion, Anderson feels as though he’s owed something for doing this stretch and, playing on Creed’s guilt, he parlays a job working as a sparring partner for the current heavyweight champion Creed manages. However, this isn’t enough and, of course, the rift between the former friends can only be settled in the square circle.
While this is a concise summation of the story, the script is rather plot-heavy. Scenes featuring Creed, his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) are welcome and well-executed. Each are strong characters and seeing the family dynamic, based on love and respect, played out is one of the best things the film has to offer. Creed and Anderson’s relationship is also well-played. The two actors capture the initial hesitance each feels towards reconnecting, their renewed friendship eventually giving way to confusion and anger. Jordan and Majors are both able to convincingly convey a sense of pain lurking beneath their characters’ flawed façades of strength. The moments in which each admits to feelings of hurt, that society has taught them to ignore, are quietly devastating. It’s to Baylin and Coogler’s credit they present the characters’ vulnerabilities in such a poignant manner. And while most of the story plays out in a lo
As for Jordan’s efforts behind the camera, once he stops using a hand-held camera, the film settles down with a more conservative approach that serves the story well. That being said, the way in which he captures the combat within the ring is impressive, his camera constantly circling around and into the middle of the fisticuffs, a sparing use of slow-motion shots used to great effect. These sequences are well-executed and compelling. However, a dream-like sequence during the final bout that employs far too much in the way of visual metaphor is heavy-handed and jarring, snapping us out of the moment. This is the sort of thing a first timer would do to impress the viewer and fortunately, Jordan shows enough self-restraint to deliver a solid entertainment.
To be sure, you’d be better off ignoring the many boxing incongruities that exist. Both Creed and Anderson look far too good after going toe-to-toe for 12 rounds while they’re both much too old to be throwing the punches and taking the punishment they do in the ring. Obviously, the fisticuffs are the bread-and-butter of films like this, but the theme of fractured masculinity is where the real battle plays out, making “Creed III” a distinctive and somewhat daring entry in the franchise.
To see Pam’s 2 1/2 star review go to: http://reelhonestreviews.com/creed-iii/