Movie Review: Southpaw
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, Oona Laurence, Skylan Brooks, Naomie Harris
Rated R for language throughout, and some violence, 123 minutes, Drama/Action
Compare to: Million Dollar Baby (2004), Warrior (2011)
The underdog story for the ages! You’ve never seen a movie like this, folks! A man loses it all only to come back swinging against his villainous rival!
Okay, so yes, you’ve seen this formula a thousand times. From similar boxing settings all the way to Disney movies in the 90s and much, much earlier- but that doesn’t make Southpaw feel tired as much as it drains you emotionally to give you what you already know is coming.
Billy Hope has got everything he needs- the wife, the kid, and an impressive career. But after he loses his temper, things get out of control, and a life close to him is taken, putting the pieces back together seems near impossible if it can happen at all. So the only way to make a comeback and prove he’s still worth anything is to become a better version of himself, in and out of the ring.
It’s like a kid on Christmas day whose parents already asked him what he wanted and where they can get it. Does he act surprised? He already knew what he was getting but ultimately, he’s still able to enjoy what he’s given. Southpaw is the same way. This guy’s life is great if not for his own attitude, this guy’s life falls apart, blah blah blah, training montage, big fight, pow, ending.
And like I said, the kid still enjoys his present. Gyllenhaal has never been a favorite of mine but with this, Prisoners, and of course, Nightcrawler, the guy can act. Clearly he’s made the proper physical changes to reflect a man who’s dedicated his life to this sport. And it’s not just the training but the attitude as well. You’d never have guessed the guy from Brokeback Mountain would be able to pull this off, even if given the release date of that and this. But who would have guessed Ledger could play the Joker.
This isn’t Gyllenhaal’s Joker, but it’s pretty high up there all the same. An issue with the story, that’s also only expected due to the nature of it, is that Hope is hard to like. We know what’s going to happen but watching him allow everything to fall apart, keep falling apart, and then bark at anyone that tries to help him is tough to sit through. You just want to slap some sense into the guy but it’s not like that would help since, in the ring, he allows himself to get pummeled just for the sake of it.
And then there’s 50 Cent in his role. He’s not given too much to do, which is fine because I’m not sure he could handle much more as a sleazy boxing promoter. Except it’s 50 Cent so I didn’t know he was supposed to be a scumbag until a couple obvious lines about his character are delivered. Before that, I thought we were meant to like him. What does that say about his acting? Or maybe it’s my own perception.
All the same, casting well known musicians in roles should be advised against I think. It’s like it’s cheapening the movie just to add that extra “Hey guys! Look who it is!” Not that he ruins it, there’s just nothing notable about the role aside from the oh-so-hip casting.
Positive: As good as its peer films, great performances from Gyllenhaal and Whitaker, engaging.
Negative: Draining emotionally, a set-up everyone and their grandma is familiar with. Hard to feel sorry for a main character they want you to dislike, it seems.