(Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, et al. | PG-13 | 1 hr 56 min | United Artists Releasing)
Overview: After dominating the boxing world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been thriving in both his career and family life. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors), resurfaces after serving a long sentence in prison, he is eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring.
The face off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian -- a fighter who has nothing to lose.
Verdict: OK, in truth, I want a rematch! Creed III is a predictable boxing movie that employs many of the genre tropes. It telegraphs its punches, you might say. Who cares? Itís a blast!
Michael B. Jordan, making his directorial debut, and Jonathan Majors are so intense, so compelling, just so good that you canít take your eyes off the screen when theyíre together.
Which, happily, is often, including a final slug fest that is both brutal and impressionistic, not necessarily the smoothest combination, but as long as theyíre together, slugging it out with their fists, their words or the shards of their shared memories, it works.
The film begins with a young Adonis Creed (Thaddeus J. Mixson) and his best friend, Damian Anderson (Spence Moore II), sneaking out for a Golden Gloves fight. Only itís Dame who is the gifted boxer; Donnie, as his friends call Creed, carries his bag and gloves.
At a liquor store afterward, Donnie sees someone from their past and starts hitting him. A couple of guys jump him and Dame pulls a gun.
Cut to Donnie 15 years later, now played by Jordan, in the last fight of his career, unifying the heavyweight title. He retires, and hangs around his ridiculously gorgeous home with his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), the current heavyweight champ, fights out of the gym Donnie runs with Duke (Wood Harris).
All is right with the world. Until it isnít. One day, Donnie walks out of the gym to see a man he doesnít recognize leaning on his Rolls Royce. After a moment, he realizes who it is: Dame (now played by Majors), out of prison after 18 years, where heís been for pulling the gun at the liquor store all those years ago.
Dame wants to fight. Not only that, he wants a shot at the title. Donnie is flooded with guilt and wants to help his old friend, but can realistically only do so much. Dame is even older than he is, after all, and he hasnít fought in years.
Perhaps you know where this is leading. One improbable step after another leads to a showdown in the ring between Dame and Donnie, each feeling betrayed by the other. It has to. Anything less would be narrative malpractice. Itís the getting there that is interesting. As with any boxing movie, there are plenty of montage sequences of the fighters engaged in nearly superhuman workouts, looking ever so serious as they suffer.
Donnie must work through tragedy as well as the feelings of guilt and the past Bianca canít convince him to talk about. Dame, meanwhile, remains fueled by rage; it seems to be an inexhaustible resource for him. [B.G.]