Awards SeasonFilmReview

Review: 'Southpaw' Puts Up a Good Fight, Isn’t a Knockout

Rachel Smith ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams in Southpaw. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Jake Gyllenhaal clearly gave everything he had for the film; his raw transformation into Billy Hope is what really saved it from being like every other boxing movie you’ve seen. Gyllenhaal physically looks exactly like a professional boxer so it’s easy to buy into his character. The fight scenes are well choreographed and fast paced but a lot of the film seems to be in fast forward or more accurately, on repeat. Southpaw is a classic boxing tale with fleeting sparks of original brilliance thanks to its cast.

Billy Hope is introduced as a cocky, short tempered boxing champion. He has won forty-three straight fights and is on top of the world. Here’s where the cliché starts. Of course the guy who says he can beat anyone will eventually fall from grace.

Billy and his daughter Leila have a very sweet relationship which very quickly turns into resentment and hate. Her changes of heart throughout the film are rather abrupt. She either wants nothing to do with Billy or demands to be with him. He really can’t win with her, and these scenes induce puddles of tears.

Additionally, Billy’s descent happens in what seems like a matter of days. It just feels like they filmmakers are rushing through the plot points that should be there that should happen so they can get to his turning point faster.

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Jake Gyllenhaal and 50 Cent in Southpaw. Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Forrest Whitaker plays a gym owner who attempts bring Billy back to his former glory. His character Tick Willis used to be a pro trainer but now sticks to training kids in the neighborhood.

This is another classic boxing storyline; going back to his roots so he can find his passion again.

And It works like a charm. Billy learns new techniques and control in a matter of weeks. The training sequences are hyped up by a great music score behind them. They make you almost think you could be a boxer too. Then you see Gyllenhaal get knocked in a face a thousand more times and you realize why you’re not.

Of course, there’s the appearance of 50 Cent as Billy’s boxing manager. You don’t believe he’s a manager, you think it is just 50 Cent in a  hat and a new name. The writers need him to really tie up the “comeback kid” storyline with a shiny bow but they could have found a shinier bow…

There are a few comedic moments that will be much appreciated because it can be a heavy film at times. Though it is filled with classic boxing movie pieces, it does stand alone thanks to the brilliant acting of Gyllenhaal and his daughter played by Oona Laurence. Though the writers threw her through many emotional loops too fast, she plays them in a very real way.

Her heartbreak, her anger and her pride when it comes to the relationship with her dad are all felt. Laurence really shined next to Gyllenhaal and made this more than just a movie about men fighting for money and pride. Additionally, Rachel McAdams, who is only in about twenty minutes of the movie, leaves a lasting impression. Her character made it about family, forgiveness, and redemption which are the main reasons why this film should be seen.

Overall Grade: C+

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