At the top of his game, Adonis ‘Donnie’ Creed retires from professional boxing and begins to live a life in the intersection of celebrity and stability. He runs a successful boxing centre with his coach Duke (Wood Harris) and helps out with the care of his daughter Amara while his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) focusses on her music career. Life is good for Creed until one day his past catches up with him.

This sports drama, directed by and starring Michael B Jordan as Creed, is the ninth film in the Rocky franchise. The story of this third part in the Creed series opens in Los Angeles in the early 2002s, when Donnie and his best friend Damian ‘Dame’ Anderson are dodging their parents and running around town competing in underground boxing matches. Dame is a boxer with a promising career until one night when things go wrong during a chance encounter with a man named Leon. Fifteen years after that incident, just out of prison, Dame (face off) returns to Los Angeles and reconnects with Donnie, expressing his desire to pursue and unfulfilled dream of becoming a champion boxer. 

This time Donnie is not being set up to fight a skilled boxer, but he’s also battling demons from his past. As far as the Rocky franchise movies go, this one attempts to be more emotional. The result is a trade-off with frenzy, thrill and pace. A sluggish narrative focuses on Dame and Donnie’s childhood and the impact of one fateful night. Regret, guilt, fear, envy envelope these friends turned foes, underlined by Donnie’s mother’s (Phylicia Rashad) intervention. 

An unfit and out of practice Donnie Creed is yanked out of his routine existence to return to the ring. Boxing films are best when they capture the intense training, transformation and minor victories, the strategizing and the skillful ring-work. It’s the reason the montage of Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is such an iconic movie memory from the 1976 film. It’s also one of the missing elements in Creed III.

Donnie’s return to boxing is too easy and quick. And Dame’s modus operandi isn’t exactly clear. The two conveniently align to set up a Donnie vs Dame face-off. 

Creed III comes alive in three sets of scenes. The first features the hearing-impaired Amara (played by a delightful Mila Davis-Kent) as she communicates with her father using sign language, even when he’s teaching her some sparring tricks. Second, in the early scenes with Dame observing Donnie’s life and seeking some connection with his childhood friend. And third, when Dame and Donnie are in opposing corners of the ring. Editing, music, fight choreography and Jordan’s direction sync to, finally, deliver the money moment of a sports drama as these men fight for their lives.