I have a rocky relationship with the Creed franchise. Not being a fan of the Rocky films, Ryan Coogler’s first Creed film was the first of the Rocky franchise I thoroughly enjoyed. Creed II, on the other hand, I could not remember a single thing from it before sitting down for Creed III. Clearly, director Steven Caple Jr., and Sylvester Stallone’s co-writing, seems to have been the issue, because third time’s the charm and the franchise is back on track. With star Michael B. Jordan making his directorial debut, he manages to pack a great story about friendship and the cycle of violence, along with a charming side helping of huge heart.
Adonis Creed (Jordan) just can’t seem to escape his past. Retired from a successful boxing career, he wants to focus on the business end and time with his family. Even his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), has retired from performing and turned to producing to spend more time with Adonis and their daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). But just wouldn’t you know it, an old friend, Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) has returned after a prison stint. Anderson claims he isn’t looking for a handout, just some help from Adonis at his long lost shot at becoming a heavyweight champion. After a fight at a party lands Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) in the hospital, Creed is forced to set up a match between Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) and Damian. But ulterior motives come calling, and sure enough, Creed finds himself headed back in the ring to fight his demons yet again.
Not everything completely works—you can’t have a sports film without some obligatory montages—but the cast, and Jordan’s eye for cool cinematography, really pulls everything together. Jordan can sometimes look like he’s going through the motions, but it’s probably from having to direct himself for the first time. Everyone else gives amazing performances, with Majors continuing to show he’s one of the best actors working today. His ability to zig when you think his character’s gonna zag is astounding. Thompson and Davis-Kent provide the heart of the film, with the daddy/daughter relationship towering above everything. Just when you thought it was time to put Creed and the Rocky films back in the corner, leave it to Jordan to show us the franchise still has plenty of punch left in it.