Starring Jake Gyllenhall and Forest Whitaker
Despite two incredible fights that serve as bookends to the story, Southpaw is a bit messy when it comes to a great boxing film. There are very few story elements at play in this film that you haven’t seen at least a few times before, typically in other films about boxing. It’s the story of a one-time sports hero, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), who loses himself in a world of depression and rage following the loss of his wife (Rachel McAdams) in the film’s first act. As his spiral continues, the lavish lifestyle his career has provided begins to unravel, along with his ability to perform and raise his 11 year old daughter (Oona Laurence). It’s not until he has hit rock bottom that Billy even realizes the damage done by his inner turmoil, and at that point there is only one way to find his way back to the top. What really works well for the film is when the script begins to soften and the performances provided by Gyllenhaal and his on-screen trainer, Forest Whitaker, finds a sense of energy that is lacking in the beginning of the film. It’s not as much about the moves they make in the context of the story, but rather the conviction found in every line of dialogue that crosses their lips, because everyone already knows Billy Hope will eventually fight a new young contender introduced at the beginning of the film. We want to see the training montage and other sequences related to fight preparation, but that alone is not enough to make us care about what’s happening on screen. That requires convincing talent, and that is the one thing Southpaw has in bulk. The film is the type of boxing epic you have been waiting to see since Rocky. It is nowhere near as good but still enjoyable. If the fights that serve as opening and closing sequences were not as breathtaking as they are, fight fans would be a little disappointed. You may walk away entertained, but you certainly won’t be wowed.
Rated MA 15plus
7 out of 10
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