Creed III review: The series returns with another knockout | Films | Entertainment

We get a clue from one of the film’s many quickfire gags, where we see a movie poster featuring a wizened old man struggling to lift a pair of boxing gloves. Above him a pile-up of Roman numerals reveal this is the star of Rocky XXXVIII. What the comedy writers didn’t foresee was the invention of the franchise spin-off.

Technically, this is Rocky IX but, for the first time, there’s no Rocky to be seen. The boxing underdog formula needed freshening up and 2015’s Creed was a torrent of fresh air.

The gritty tone of the original Rocky resurfaced as Stallone’s Rocky mentored Michael B Jordan’s Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of his nemesis-turned-chum Apollo Creed. After a nostalgia-fuelled second round (2018’s Creed II clunkily replayed the beats of the cheesy Rocky IV), the series returns with another knockout.

Jonathan Majors’s soulful villain Kang is the only interesting thing about the new Ant-Man movie. And he delivers another nuanced performance as Adonis’s childhood pal and former boxing ace Damian.

Adonis is a retired champ when he spots Damian leaning menacingly on his fancy motor. The last time he saw him was during a violent incident that led to Damian’s 18-year incarceration.

Creed agrees to help Damian get his career back on track without realising his old pal still harbours a grudge. You don’t need to see the trailer to know the two will end up sorting out their issues in the ring.

Daringly, the film blurs the line between plucky underdog and snarling villain. You may suffer from conflicted loyalties in the climactic showdown, but the choreography is thrilling and the human drama ­surprisingly touching.

This franchise could make it into double figures yet.

  • Creed III, Cert 12A, In cinemas now

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