'Creed III' Is a Knockout

Directed by Michael B. Jordan

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Mila Davis-Kent, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad

Photo: Eli Ade

BY Marriska FernandesPublished Mar 3, 2023

For those who worried a rock-solid franchise like Creed would have little else to say after two films (not to mention the entire Rocky series), it's time to get back in the ring as Michael B. Jordan delivers a solid, stylistic punch in his directorial debut, Creed III.

The film opens with a flashback to a young Adonis, who is rooting for boxing champ Damian "Dame" Anderson. Growing up in a group home together, Dame and Adonis formed a brotherly bond before Adonis was adopted by Apollo's widow, Mary-Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad). Their paths diverged even further when Damian was imprisoned for nearly two decades after defending Adonis when he got into a scrap in front of a liquor store.

In the present day, Adonis (Jordan) has retired from boxing and living a good life with wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). When Damian (Jonathan Majors) shows up outside Adonis's gym, guilt eats up Adonis while envy swallows Damian, who wants the life he never had. Both men have unresolved tension from their past and struggle to face each other. 

While Jordan delivers a compelling performance as Adonis, it's his directorial effort that stands out. He packs emotion in every punch, in and out of the ring. Using wide shots and taking advantage of the mirrors and walls, Jordan exposes the two fighters and their unique styles. He also opts to use slow motion in pivotal scenes, elevating and translating them effortlessly. The fight choreography in particular is beautiful and dynamic without becoming gratuitous, and instead is layered with envy, regret and revenge. 

The final fight brings the house down. Jordan's decision to use prison bars and a silent ring is brutal yet beautiful. Narratively, Jordan ties the film together when the finale echoes what Adonis tells his daughter: it's not about violence, but timing and focus.

Majors carries the weight of this film with his multi-faceted performance. He's the wounded, tragic fighter who expresses everything, even in moments when he says nothing. He might be the antagonist, but never once feels like a villain — the audience roots for him just as much as Adonis. Majors isn't afraid to colour outside the lines with Dame, and he delivers.

Thompson is given a stronger character arc than in previous Creed films, and although she is still a supporting role, she isn't simply side-lined. She carries her weight as an actor in the film and her work doesn't go unnoticed.

At times, the film can feel rushed, and as a result some moments are unearned. And while some plot points in Creed III are simply raised and not fully developed, these are minor flaws in an otherwise fiercely satisfying watch. 

Creed III is well-crafted and will please fans of the Rocky/Creed franchise and those unfamiliar with the story. Quite simply: it's a knockout.
(Warner Bros.)

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