Movie Review: Southpaw

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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.

Stop me if you've heard this one.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

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.

"Hey Billy- before the big fight, did you remember to drink up that delicious Fiddy energy drink I gave you? Nutritional, too!"

“Hey Billy- before the big fight, did you remember to drink up that delicious Fiddy energy drink I gave you? Nutritional, too!”

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.

Grade: B-

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4 Responses to “Movie Review: Southpaw”

  1. Skinny Pete Says:

    Man didn’t even realize this was already out…will see

  2. ehartman87 Says:

    I saw this at a screening earlier this week. I thought it was too long, the characters were one-dimensional, and the plot was cliched, predictable, even laughable. But I’m sure Gyllenhaal will win an Oscar because he got all muscled up and grunted around a lot.

    I agree with you about Fiddy, it was hard to tell if we were supposed to like him or not until the end when he strolled to ringside with the opponent. But that’s kind of a microcosm of this movie — you’re not sure whether or not to like any of the people in it because the characters are so poorly fleshed out. Just my $0.02.

    Nice review, I enjoy reading these from you.

    • Taylor Says:

      Appreciate the input. Man, you didn’t even like Forest Whitaker in this?? I thought he did an awesome job, but it could be a bias. Still, he fit that “magical negro” trope to a key all the same, so I can’t argue there. Every character seemed like they’d been in a million movies before this one, just being played by different actors.

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