Southpaw (2015)

15 Aug

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion, enjoying a life of celebrity and wealth with his beautiful wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Billy’s life soon spirals out of control however, soon after losing his wife in a bizarre act of violence spurred on by a competing boxer.  The stakes are raised when Billy’s child is taken into custody by Child Protection Services, and it’s up to Billy to piece his life back together if he wants his daughter (yawn) back.

Southpaw is a gritty boxing film that tries to examine the lengths a father is willing to go to win back his daughter’s love; it sort of works. Starring alongside Racheal McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, and Naomie Harris, is Jake Gyllenhaal – a lumbering towering figure of muscle and pure rage. As always, Gyllenhaal makes for a captivating screen presence. With him, Southpaw makes for a watchable but barely enjoyable film; without him, the haphazard storytelling, and trite emotional punches bring the film to the ground faster than a KO’d novice boxer.

For such a cookie-cutter role, Gyllenhaal really does give a solid performance. It’s obvious he has completely sucked himself into the role, and everything from his cautious mannerisms to his accent-ridden, quavering voice bring sincerity to even the sappiest bits of dialogue. Unfortunately, there is too much sentimentality here to go around, and Southpaw dissolves into an enjoyable piece of melodrama at its best, and a formulaic lifetime-movie at it’s worst. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) is no stranger to violence or melodrama, but he seems to have outdone himself here. Thanks to lots of quick edits and dramatized chiaroscuro lighting, most of the action feels more like an uninspired music video than an effective way of advancing the plot.

Bottom Line:  While Gyllenhaal is surely worth watching, the majority of Southpaw spends too much effort building up an emotionally over-exhausted story. 

Rating: 5/10 

Film Recipe: Glory Road (2006) – Basketball + Rocky (1976) + “Believing in yourself”

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