Film Review | CREED III

337

A talented, charismatic cast cannot make up for a cliché-ridden script and a fuzzy timeline.  Creed III suffers from both. If you’re just looking for entertainment, you will enjoy this film more than I did, but if you’re a fan of real boxing, maybe not. This is the first film in the series of Rocky/Creed films not to feature Sylvester Stallone in some way. Although he acts as one of the producers, he declined to be in it. To paraphrase an interview he gave about it, he said that although he likes his heroes to get “beat up”, he doesn’t want them to go to a dark place because there’s already so much darkness in the world. And it’s true; Adonis Creed goes to a very dark place in the film.

First things first:  Creed III is Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut. Jordan, the director, gives Jordan, the actor, a real star turn. He’s ever-present on the screen, looking impressively good, so how is he going to be the underdog in the inevitable match with the film’s antagonist? Well, it’s a stretch.

Speaking of the antagonist, he’s Damian Anderson, a character from Adonis’s past, played by the brilliant Jonathan Majors. He arrives on the scene as a sympathetic character, but he doesn’t remain one. He’s recently released from prison where he ended up from an incident when he and Adonis were foster brothers before Adonis was rescued by Mary-Anne Creed. In the fracas, he was arrested after pulling a gun while Adonis got away. Dame, as Adonis calls him, is going to play heavily on Adonis’s guilt about avoiding arrest.

Meanwhile, as the film begins, Adonis has retired from his highly successful career and is living large with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) in a swanky LA penthouse. If you recall, Bianca is hearing-impaired and Amara is deaf. There are some truly heart-warming scenes of the family interacting while using ASL. Bianca’s hearing impairment has progressed to the point that she no longer performs but produces music very successfully. Amara, meanwhile, is very interested in her dad’s boxing career, although on the sly because her parents don’t want her exposed to the brutality of the boxing scene.

It’s been three years since Adonis’s retirement and he’s gone a bit soft physically. Along with a plethora of product endorsements and guest appearances, he runs a gym with his former trainer, Little Duke Burton (Wood Harris). Their current star is heavyweight champion Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) who is set to fight Viktor Drago (Florian Manteanu) in a highly-promoted match. Chavez is so good that he’s run out of sparring partners. This is when the fairy tale begins.

Dame contacts Adonis for help in becoming a contender for the championship. Before prison, he’d been a Golden Gloves champion out of South LA. Adonis is shocked and tells him that’s just not possible, but Dame insists that he deserves a chance.  Adonis, against the wishes of Little Duke, offers Dame the job of sparring partner for Chavez.

How do Adonis and Dame end up in the ring? Well, it stretches credibility to the nth degree and is totally predictable.

Three years of retirement and his obsessive guilt spurred by the idea that Damian’s imprisonment was somehow his fault make Adonis the underdog. I know- it’s ridiculous.  When I complained about a fuzzy timeline, I was thinking of Damian’s rise (seemingly overnight) and Adonis being thrust back into the ring. There’s no sense of how much time is involved. The training montage and Adonis returning to top contender shape seem to happen very quickly. Really?

So the final confrontation is set up. I’ll leave it to you to find out how that goes. That’s also predictable, but how it happens is interesting, as is the aftermath.

I don’t consider Creed III a good film. However, if you’re a fan of any of its stars, who do a good job with what they’re given, and are looking for a little escapism, you may enjoy it. – JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: C