Jamie Skinner reviews Creed III: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) returns to boxing when an old friend (Jonathan Majors) enters the ring with more than the heavyweight champion title on his mind.

Creed III Cert - 12, Run-time - 1 hour 56 minutes, Director - Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan may just give the best performance of his career so far in Creed III. Perhaps the personal and emotional connection he has with Adonis Creed is boosted here by the fact that he makes his directorial debut, regardless he gives a great performance as the now-retired boxer who has taken up coaching the next generation. However, the calm of his life is disturbed when an old friend (Jonathan Majors) steps into the ring after twenty years in prison.

It’s clear that Damian is after more than just the heavyweight champion title, “Damian ain’t a boxer, he’s fighting a war and he’s trying to hurt people”. You can see the anger which fuels him both in and out of the ring as he looks for revenge. Trying to get back at the world which imprisoned him and let Adonis go free (the young pair played by Spence Moore II and Thaddeus J. Mixson respectively). Majors is brilliant as the former promising boxer and truly gets across his characters’ rage as he tries to bring down Creed’s world.

The drama is helped by the fact that the events feel tailored to the characters. It provides an engagingly natural feel which keeps you engaged through the chaptered first half. Yet, the performances and believable drama help keep you in place, especially for the smoother second half which further pushes the conflict between the two central figures. One powered by rage, the other unsure of how to deal with his emotions and long-buried traumas, despite encouragement from wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) to talk.

The Rocky/Creed franchise has always been at its best when focusing on character drama (even if there is plenty of love for the intensely 80s Cold War showdown of Rocky IV). Creed III plays to this strength and runs with it. Yet, there’s plenty of interest to be found within the film’s more stylised elements. Not just the inevitable training montage, which effectively gets across the pain and struggle felt, but also in the big final showdown. The techniques used certainly keep in place the match at play but also allow for the battling emotions felt by the opponents to come across in a slightly different way.

The stirring thoughts and feelings are often felt throughout as the conflict intensifies in public view, another thing the film subtly makes a natural point of. The performances, not just from Majors and Jordan but the whole cast, are great and help to engage you within the natural drama. Especially when things even out in the second half there’s an engaging character drama at play which plays to the strengths of these characters and naturally fits around them. The Creed films have been consistently strong so far, and this is perhaps the best one to date.

Jamie Skinner - Four stars