Published on July 26th, 2015 | by Allan Brown2
Movie Review: Southpaw (2015)
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Kurt Sutter
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris
Southpaw (2015) comes at you with a flurry of emotion and technique, but is Antoine Fuaqua’s (Training Day, The Equalizer) boxing drama the next Raging Bull or more Rocky 5?
We follow slugger Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the height of his boxing career as he, once again, defends his status in the ring as the undefeated light-heavyweight champion of the world. Although Billy wins his latest fight, he endures quite a beating in the process, which does not go unnoticed by his dotting wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams). Scared that irreparable damage is only a fight or two away, Maureen tries to convince Billy to hang up his gloves for good. However, as Billy ponders his options, a sudden tragedy strikes, turning Billy’s perfect world upside-down.
Having lost everything; his family, close friends and his career, Billy finds himself thrust into a world of depression and grief without any sign hope. To climb out of the darkness that surrounds him, Billy must get back on his feet and with the help of an old fashioned no-nonsense boxing coach (Forest Whitaker), must redeem himself and save his family before it’s too late.
A boil-in-the-bag boxing drama enriched by a compelling central performance.
Southpaw follows the well-trodden path of nearly every boxing film that has come before. It charts an all too familiar protagonist on top of the world, before the cataclysmic fall from grace. The predictable route through themes of loss and grief soon follow, before the slow and steady climb to redemption and inevitable rousing climax- the staple of all good crowd pleaser’s.
Despite Southpaw being rather unoriginal, its screenplay littered with clique after clique (his name is hope, need I say more?), and plot points thrown to the side or abandoned (the investigation surrounding his wife’s death and the shooter being a member of his opponents entourage) in favour for the more generic formula, Southpaw still manages to compel and excite.
This is down to the films strong emotional backbone and the exceptional central performances that somehow manage to transcend the genre and its formulaic approach.
Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) once again impresses in the supporting roles. They are accompanied by young Oona Laurence (Penny Dreadful) who turns in a sincere and heart-rending performance as Billy’s daughter Leila. But it is Jake Gyllenhaal who once again steals the show, delivering another transformative powerhouse performance, bringing real gruff and genuinity to this otherwise Hollywood affair.
Despite the narrative lacking ambition, Southpaw delivers a strong emotional punch and the chemistry between its key characters is enough to fill the cracks visible elsewhere in the film.
Summary: A boil-in-the-bag boxing drama enriched by a compelling central performance.