Film Review “Southpaw”

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First, the Recap:

The bell rings and champion Welterweight boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes to work. Undefeated throughout his illustrious and lucrative career, Hope’s newest fight begins to indicate to his worrying wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) that his days in the sport are best left behind for the sake of his own well-being and their family’s, including daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Frustrated and not wanting to call it quits, a speaking engagement at a kid’s charity event brings about an unforeseen and tragic encounter involving a leading contender for Hope’s title in Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez). In an instant, Hope’s entire life is suddenly and brutally turned upside down. Unable to cope, his circumstances only get worse.

Almost making a massive mistake for the sake of anger-fueled retribution, Hope sinks into a dangerously melancholy state, which in turn causes actions he soon regrets. With Leila being taken away, his manager and money disappearing, and his home and possessions lost as well, Hope contemplates what to do. Choosing a local gym run by a former pro, Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), Hope initially shuns the conditions that Wills would impose on Hope should he choose to train at the gym.  But after multiple failed attempts to see Leila, his tune quickly evolves into a newfound drive to prove his worth to her and to the boxing world when an offer comes for him to fight once again for a championship against the man whom he holds responsible for his losses on all levels, Escobar.

Next, my Mind:

This reviewer has enjoyed director Antoine Fuqua’s previous efforts like “Training Day” and “The Equalizer“, as they carry a patented blend of serious intensity, grittiness, yet somewhere in all the chaos, heart. “Southpaw” does manage to deliver this same mix (also with the standard and somewhat tedious amount of profanity that Fuqua’s films are also known for), but somehow doesn’t quite pack the  same punch (Couldn’t help it! Forgive!) those other two offerings did in total. It honestly comes across as a modern “Rocky” with the whole “boxer gets beaten down by tragic circumstances, wallows in self-doubt, then finds redemption and belief again for the sake of family”, but just doesn’t quite nail the earnestness of that classic.

This is not to at all put down Gyllenhaal’s performance, however, as he is so incredibly adept at emoting the toughness, anger, and outright desperation of Hope, a man on the edge who feels the weight of everything coming down on him, but chooses to rise up for his daughter. Likewise, Laurence is fantastic as Leila, a girl reeling from situations she comprehends, but doesn’t completely grasp, while simply wanting her father to be present for her. Gomez is a somewhat “typical” villain figure in the film, but it suits the required need.  Whitaker makes the most of his very solid character-acting style. McAdams likewise is fine. Add a final musical score from recently lost-to-soon composer James Horner, and you at least present a total package.

Again, overall, it is a story worth seeing, but won’t necessarily carry the lasting impression like Fuqua’s other efforts.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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