Southpaw, a riveting film about Billy “The Great” Hope’s journey through the ups and downs of boxing, gives us a hard-hitting performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Established as a renowned boxer, Hope’s fame quickly takes a turn as tragedy strikes and he loses the strength of his foundation: his wife Maureen (portrayed by Rachel McAdams). After her death, Hope falls through a quick downward spiral leading to depression and reckless decision-making. As Hope hits rock bottom, so does his career and his relationship with his daughter. With the custody of his daughter being put into question, Hope realizes he needs to get his life back on track and decides to get back in the ring.
Though the journey back up the ladder is not an easy one for him, Hope finds solace in Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) – the owner of a run-down boxing gym. Will’s strict training strategies force Hope to become a much more focused boxer as his moves start developing from the emotional strength within him rather than the uncontrollable anger he usually thrusts onto his opponents. Through Hope’s transformation, we not only get to see his victory, but we get to see Gyllenhaal’s victory as he delivers an outstanding performance. It is very apparent that as an actor, he has completely enveloped himself in the character in both a physical and emotional manner. Although the film’s storyline exposes itself as a cliché at times, Gyllenhaal’s performance saves it from being any less thrilling. Not to mention, the soundtrack as well as the great ‘in-the-ring’ shots of the boxing matches make for an action-packed drama.
Even though Rotten Tomatoes rates the movie at a mere 59 percent, it’s safe to say that this film is worth the watch! Having not seen the trailer before watching the film meant I had no clue what I was getting myself in to. Then 124 minutes later, I found myself wiping tears from my eyes because I’m a sucker for a cliché victory. Director of The Equalizer, Antoine Fuqua truly outdid himself with this boxing drama. Being able to develop a boxing film without dismissing its plot or letting it fall into an ‘already been done’ category is not an easy task. Yet, Fuqua’s directing and Gyllenhaal’s performance work together in creating not just another boxing drama, but an engaging emotional film that delivers its action through hard-hitting punches.
If you’re not a huge fan of boxing films, give yourself the opportunity to watch Southpaw. I promise you won’t regret it because seeing Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope is rewarding in itself!
Southpaw is playing in theaters now.