90%Overall Score
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58%

Gyllenhaal’s performance in this painful but unapologetic film is not to be missed.

 

 

Close your eyes and imagine having the perfect life: a successful career, family, and the house of your dreams. After all the hard work, training, practicing in the gym; everything you wanted has finally paid off.

 

 

Now just imagine one fateful night your entire world comes crashing down. The happiness you lived for is taken away. Simple tasks like getting out of bed have become a struggle. The love and appreciation from your fans is no longer there. You’re left without a home, a car, a child, a job, family nor friends. Your only haven is crying yourself into drug-induced fit on the bathroom floor…alone.

 

 

This is what happens to boxing’s Light Heavyweight Champion Billy Hope in the riches to rags to improvement story filled with the darkest moments of anyone’s life.

 

 

The film opens with punch, literally: hard, heavy blows flying on the screen as Hope celebrates the highest moment of his life. Beaten, battered and bruised, he lived. Surrounded by his wife and only daughter, Hope speaks and walks as if he’s barely hanging onto life. Damage suffered from the boxing matches is taking their toll on him but he is happy.

 

 

The real story begins after a set of tragic events that result in Hope having to crawl his way back to the top. Lost, forgotten, alone, and in pain he is brought to his knees; he is forced to humble himself under the guidance of his new trainer as he prepares to fight his longstanding rival and seedy manager played by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

 

 

 

In a role that was originally set to star Eminem, Jake Gyllenhaal is basically screaming for an Academy Award as Hope, proving to be one of the most gifted actors in Hollywood. His physical transformation proves the power of hard work, but what’s more important is his transformation beyond muscles. Jake is unrecognizable as Hope, the handsome glamorous actor who speaks with such eloquence and grace is gone. What the audience gets a shell of man, destroyed by years of fighting, poor education; his body is simply ravished and his speech is slurred. It’s a struggle to understand him, he speaks mostly in mumbles, and he limps making you feel every pain in his body. When he doesn’t speak he allows his aggression, his suffering and broken spirit to speak for him. He is explosive and brutal both in and out of the ring, which results in his downfall. Throughout the film, he is forced to change both his fighting style and mental outlook.

 

jake-gyllenhaal-fights-for-redemption-in-southpaw

 

Forest Whitaker, as Titus “Tick” Wills, a former boxer and now trainer of disadvantaged youth, is thrust in the spotlight when Hope comes to him looking for a chance at redemption after losing everything and reaching the ultimate rock bottom. Whitaker takes on the role like he does with any role. He blends so effortlessly into mentor and friend that it’s hard to tell the two apart. He is more than just support for Hope, he is a lifeline.

 

 

Rounding out the cast is Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope, Hope’s wife. She is kind, caring, patient; the pure definition of love. She not only supports but helps her husband to focus, she looks after him. Their relationship is less lot husband and wife and more like mother and child, however, this works and it makes their bond and dynamic even stronger. This role is shared by their only daughter Leila, played to perfection by Oona Laurence. Despite her young age, she is able to hold down a role twice her size. She, too, is forced to deal with a sudden and tragic loss, and, just like her father, she must deal with it alone. Thrown into a new life, she begins to breakdown. Unlike Hope, who seeks comfort in the arms of illegal substances, she shuts down, refusing to communicate with anyone. However, she speaks volumes through her body language and when she does release, her expressions are explosive. She has clearly inherited his defiant nature to a tee.

 

 

Southpaw is not perfect: at its core it is clique and predictable, but it is a heart-wrenchingly enjoyable film. Director Antoine Fuqua shines when it comes to pulling out the best from his actors. The acting is at its best, the camera work is inclusive. Each fight scene is choreographed like a barbarous tango. Much like Raging Bull, the camera appears to be placed in with the fight (similar to watching action on a GoPro); each hit is felt with such brutal force as Hope and his opponent battle it out. The audience becomes part of the fight, no longer a spectator; people will find themselves ducking a diving in hopes of missing each blow. It is violent, but isn’t that what boxing is; a sport designed to break bones. Nothing is held back, making us respect and fear Billy Hope even more.

 

 

Just like life, Southpaw is transformative, painful but unapologetic; and just as Eminem stated in the lyrics in the film’s theme song, it is “phenomenal” and to miss it is the real injustice.

 

 

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

Written By: Kurt Sutter

Starring: Jake Gyllenhall, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams

Run time: 123 minutes

Release Date: July 24, 2015

About The Author

Dana Abercrombie
Brand Manager

Former genius and a woman of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by her mystery, Dana Abercrombie has been watching since birth (yes birth...we did say "genius"). Despite her secret desire of wanting to give it all up to become a gorgeous billionaire, Dana is most passionate about films often times getting in many heated debates resulting in being thrown out of many gatherings. Despite having a degree in English AND Journalism (multi-tasking FTW!) from the University at Albany-SUNY, she is currently interested in perusing a degree at Yale Law School, because one should never give up on a dream of becoming a gorgeous billionaire...and knowing how to sue someone as a result of those heated debates.