John Mulderig
/ Categories: Arts & Culture


By John Mulderig/OSV News

NEW YORK. Four and a half decades on from the bicentennial year in which it premiered, the “Rocky” franchise is still a cinematic gift that keeps on giving. Thus “Creed III” (PG-13, United Artists), the ninth film in the series, is a thinking-person’s sports drama that will appeal even to those with no particular interest in well-choreographed slugfests.

While not suitable for kids, this second sequel to the 2015 reboot sends messages from which mature adolescents as well as grown-ups may benefit. However parents decide with regard to the former demographic, there are certainly no sucker punches awaiting those in the latter.

The movie is notable for a couple of firsts. With it, actor Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut while also reprising his role as champion pugilist Adonis “Donnie” Creed. In what will be a sad development for many, however, Sylvester Stallone — the man who started it all — departs, taking Rocky Balboa with him.

As we check back in with Donnie, everything seems to be coming up roses for him. Now retired from the ring, he’s enjoying a prosperous life with his hearing-impaired singer-turned-producer wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and their deaf daughter Amara, played by Mila Davis-Kent. (Several clan conversations are carried on in American Sign Language with subtitles.)

Donnie is also keeping busy professionally. In partnership with his former trainer Tony “Little Duke” Burton (Wood Harris), he’s working as a promoter and co-managing the gym where Little Duke now guides the career of the current champ, Felix Chavez (José Benavidez).

Donnie’s tranquility is shattered, however, when a childhood friend, Damian Anderson, aka Dame (Jonathan Majors), re-enters his life. Dame is fresh out of prison after serving a long term for an incident in which both he and Donnie were involved but from which Donnie successfully fled when the police showed up, leaving his pal to face the music alone.

Morally shaded characters add complexity and depth as the plot moves toward not one but two trademark showdowns. Keegan Coogler and Zach Baylin’s script, meanwhile, plays creatively on the underdog theme with which the whole saga began — a celebrated boxer in his youth, outsider Dame now wants his own shot at the big time.

The screenplay also effectively explores themes of guilt, emotional repression and the importance of family. As a result, its artistic merits may outweigh its earthier elements in the judgment of those making viewing decisions on behalf of older teens.

The film contains harsh physical violence, marital sensuality, mature themes, including the physical abuse of children, at least one rough term, about a half-dozen instances each of mild swearing and crude language and a few crass expressions. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. 

(Formerly a staff member for Catholic News Service, John Mulderig has been reviewing visual media from a Catholic perspective for 15 years. His column is syndicated by OSVNews.)

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