When it comes to boxing movies, it can sometimes feel like there are few stories left to be told. What works so well about “Creed III” is that instead of being a laser-focused sports story, co-writers Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin‘s script leans heavily into a sincere family drama. It’s also a solid directorial debut from actor Michael B. Jordan, who reprises his role as the title character.
Adonis Creed (Jordan) has retired from sparring in the ring. After amassing dozens of titles, he’s now a devoted husband to Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and father to Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), a loving son to Mary-Ann (Phylicia Rashad), and runs a successful boxing gym where he works with the latest and greatest talent in the sport. Things are going well until his former childhood friend Damian (Jonathan Majors) resurfaces after nearly two decades in prison, and a long-buried incident (which is eventually revealed) causes tension between them. Eager to prove himself and get the boxing career he always wanted, Damian asks Adonis if he can help get him a shot in a fight. Feeling guilty, he agrees. Damian is a skilled but dirty fighter, which creates even more problems. Things go from bad to worse, with an eventual title fight between the two men.
The fight scenes are well directed and exciting, even if they are predictable. The film expects the audience to know the general rules of boxing so if you have no idea what’s an illegal or legal hit, you may be in over your head. (I have next to zero knowledge of the sport but I still enjoyed the fight scenes).
The film’s strongest element is the robust character development, which has always been a huge part of the franchise. Learning the painful history between Adonis and Damian makes their narrative of friends turned adversaries even more compelling, and there are genuinely touching moments featuring Bianca, Amara, and Mary-Ann. The chemistry and talent of the cast are both terrific.
That being said, there is a lot of story here. A lot. It makes much of the film feel too hurried as Jordan rushes through scene after scene. It’s good that the movie isn’t draggy, but this is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of project. And although the characters and their relationships are detailed, parts of the script feel hollow and of course, predictable.
For the third film in a franchise, “Creed III” is far better than reasonably expected. Despite a few stumbles, the strong performances, the compelling story, and themes of perseverance and the importance of family make this one a winner.