Tag Archives: Antoine Fuqua

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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Nightcrawler (2014)

16 Nov

Jake Gyllenhaal has hit a hot streak.

Coming fresh off a “renaissance” period of high-profile roles (Prisoners, Enemy, End of Watch, and Source Code), Gyllenhaal plays our leading man in Nightcrawler, Lou Bloom, an unemployed LA native looking for his next gig.  Circumstances allow him to become a self-employed photojournalist, capturing horrific and often gruesome incidents on video which he then sells to the highest-paying news station.

Like its title would suggest, Nightcrawler is a dark, slimy film that brings out the best acting work from Gyllenhaal. His performance as a self-motivated entrepreneur is no doubt the film’s highlight, though the story also provides some pretty fascinating commentary on the seedy activity of modern city life.  The script is mostly dialogue-driven, and director Dan Gilroy keeps the few action scenes tight and suspenseful. Darkly-lit cityscapes and warbling guitars add to the film’s pervasive atmosphere and create a drab background for our characters to fill. Supporting Gyllenhaal are Riz Ahmed as Lou’s assistant Rick, and Rene Russo in an excellent role as Nina, the egotistic head of a local news station.

Despite the great performances, the script does feel a bit chunky at times; exchanges about the narcissistic nature of capitalism start to lose their edge about halfway through. The prevailing themes about power-hungry corporate culture become less subtle and more satiric as the film progresses.

Thematic elements aside, Nightcrawler moves at a fast and fluid pace. Audiences barely have time in between sequences of brutal news footage and car chases to comprehend the full weight of Lou’s gutsy (and often unethical) actions.  The film has it’s moments of dark humor too, most often with the contrast of charismatic Lou and his passive sidekick Rick.  A scene where Rick tries Lou’s negotiating tactics against him is particularly brilliant.

Visually, the film looks incredible; gorgeous shots of nighttime city streets give the film a slick, noir feel reminiscent of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive. It becomes clear by the end of the film however, that even the most glitzed and stylish among us have a dark underbelly waiting to be explored. Or Exploited.

 

Rating 7/10 

Similar to: Taxi Driver, Killing Them Softly, American Psycho