Directed by Antoine Fuqua Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker
Review by Chris Olson
“Hope & Glory”
Rarely does a film get defined by its genre as much as a boxing film. Those viewers familiar with movies like Raging Bull (1980), Rocky (1976), Warrior (2011) etc, will be no strangers to the structure of a boxing/fighting film - where violence and brutality are kept within the confines of an organised structure. Antoine Fuqua’s lively and gritty Southpaw follows a riches-to-rags-to-riches story, rarely subverting the genre, but still pummels the viewer with enough emotional blows and intensity that you won’t ask for a refund.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays professional boxer Billy Hope - a man at the top of his career, only to have it snatched away after a violent and tragic run in with a challenger’s entourage. Left broken and unstable, Hope’s situation goes from bad to worse, as social services deem him an unfit parent, taking his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) into the system. Having grown up in the system himself, Billy channels his anger, fear and frustration into his boxing in order to climb the ladder once again - using the wise teachings of local trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker).
With the hard-edged hip-hop soundtrack and the definition of Gyllenhaal’s abs, viewers entering into Fuqua’s Southpaw may forget to bring with them a box of tissues - but be warned, you should need them! The ferocity of the fighting is matched by the depth of emotion that is poured into certain scenes, allowing a gripping variety for the audience that is not Raging Dull. Gyllenhaal is formidable in this film, tackling every aspect with intense purpose that is believable and filled with pathos.
Forest Whitaker serves up his own impressive combination of jabs, his character’s integrity and blunt honesty is beautifully combined with Hope’s raw rage. 50 Cent is as thin as a coin, portraying the slimy organiser who shamelessly benefits from his fighter’s misery without any sense of trying.
Where Southpaw finds itself on the ropes is in the inevitability of it all. Aside from the shocking tragedy near the beginning (spoiled in the trailer), the film never hits the audience with an unexpected uppercut - it follows the footsteps of all its predecessors. Like watching a classic fight on ESPN.
Antoine Fuqua’s direction is evenly handed and captures the emotional turmoil with fluidity. There is no chunky, pointless dialogue or scenes. In essence, much like Gyllenhaal’s abs, he trims all the fat and has viewers gripped until the end - where we realise it looks like any other set of abs.
Watch the Southpaw trailer below...