Creed 3 is a crowd-pleaser effort, with Jonathon Majors at his ferocious best and Phylicia Rashad being sensational.
We review the 2023 film Creed 3, which does not contain spoilers.
I’ll admit there is a lack of infatuation with the first Creed on my part. The second installment, however, hit that sweet spot, the kind that offers effectively poignant subplots just as much about boxing as they are about fathers and sons or those pesky ties that bind. Now, in a competent directorial debut by Michael B. Jordan, those ties are still there with shared trauma and painful memories. This is an effective tool, along with two sensational supporting performances, making Creed 3 a genuine crowd-pleaser but the weakest in the series to date.
Creed 3 Review and Plot Summary
The script by Ryan Coogler and King Richard scribe Zach Baylin follows our favorite retired world heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis “Donnie” Creed living his post-fighter life. Creed manages the Delphi Boxing Academy and promotes the champ Felix (current and real-life welterweight boxer José Benavidez Jr.). He now has the “Don King” role in boxing. He is working on the fight of the century between Felix and Viktor Drago. Creed’s wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), is producing music, and they are raising their adorable daughter Amara who is hearing impaired.
However, a wrench was thrown into Creed’s big-picture plans. Donnie’s childhood friend, Damian (Jonathan Majors), has just been released from prison after serving 18 years. Damian wrote Adonis over the years, but he never responded. Creed claims he never received the letters, a source of hurt feelings between the two. He is now Felix’s sparring partner. Why? So he can get ready for the big title fight with Drago. This doesn’t sit well with Damian, who tells his oldest friend the only thing he wants is a shot to be the heavyweight champion of the world.
As we said above, this is Jordan’s first-time featuring behind the camera, and it’s more than telling. The talent is there, and he has a future in that role. Jordan has a clear vision and allows his team, especially the actors, to shine. You’ll watch as he frames Majors and Phylicia Rashad to empower their performances that bring the film some emotional heft.
Majors, whose turn in The Last Black Man in San Francisco remains one of the greatest performances of the 21st century, is at his ferocious best here. It’s not the scenes where he is firing off verbal jabs with a devious switchblade smile. It’s the scenes where he stoically pierces fear into you when staring into the camera or at his opponent. Then there is Rashad, a gifted actress, who is sensational here in a small but powerful role. Her tender and heartbreaking scene with Jordan is already one of the year’s very best and is award-worthy.
Some of my complaints about the film are that it is not exactly original and follows a similar path. Jordan did take some chances here, especially in the third act with the final climatic boxing scene, by leaving subtext for overt themes of living in the past as like a prison. I would have loved to have seen more flashback scenes with the always wonderful Spence Moore II that could have built up and highlighted emotionally charged scenes in the finale.
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While I would never call Benavidez small, and I am sure he could hold his own, he is noticeably too light for a heavyweight championship match compared to the other fighters. My final complaint is the whole scenario of Damian’s title shot. (As well as Creed jumping back in the ring). The storylines and tools used to move these scenes along tend to feel rushed, even a bit contrived.
Is Creed 3 good?
While I freely admit this may be the weakest of the Creed franchise, the two sensational supporting turns by Majors and Rashad, along with a competent freshman debut behind the camera by Jordan, make Creed III a crowd-pleasing effort. Even with some noticeable flaws, it’s hard not to get caught up in the story, the characters, and the themes beneath the surface. If only it had a few more knockout blows to make the film a rousing success like its predecessors.
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