If you are looking for reviews of Southpaw, then it is entirely possible that you have seen two types of reviews. Some saying 4/5 stars, while others rate it 3/10. The consistency throughout the media world is gone, and this movie is either a love it or hate it film.
This is the story of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal): a world champion middleweight boxer, but also a loving husband and father. His wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) keep Billy’s temper in check, until the accident. Maureen dies after Billy and Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) get into a street fight and she is shot. Needless to say, Billy’s life goes down fast.He loses everything (including his daughter). We watch as Billy tries to get back into the ring, get back his daughter, and fight for his wife.
One of my favorite things about this movie was watching the pair of McAdams and Gyllenhaal on screen. Their connection seemed genuine and not just acting. Even the scenes that led to the cliché fight between them felt both natural and necessary.
Likewise, Gyllenhaal never tried to simply “phone in” his performance. As you can see by the major change from Nightcrawler to this film, he gave his all. Many critics are disappointed by the result of the overall movie, feeling it was a waste of talent. I think if he had called it in, critics would blame the failure of Southpaw on Gyllenhaal and not the clichés or one-dimensional characters.
This movie tries to keep you hooked by throwing a lot of the classic themes at you. They cast very likeable characters (or dislikeable, depending on the role) and keep them honest to how each character was written.
For those who don’t see Gyllenhaal as a middleweight champion, remember that this role was originally written for Eminem. If there were going to be anyone phoning in the part, it would have been him.
The best thing about this movie was the fight scenes. They were longer than most movies and they included very graphic and realistic fighting. This might have been due to the director’s desire to have real fights, even leading to Gyllenhall sustaining injuries.
Finally, the score of this movie (both tracks and composition) kept this movie going. At so many points, the music could have swelled and made the moment into a big triumphant redemption, but it never did. The music was controlled and well balanced to give us a sense of how we are supposed to feel. The music also changes in style to show us who Billy is becoming. At the end, the music is loud and gives us a very clear picture of who he is.
At the end, Billy is controlled. He has tamed his demons and now he can continue his life, and the music reflects that nicely.
Negatives (Small spoilers)
The biggest issue that most people have is the amount of clichés. Boxing movies have been played out and it is hard to throw anything new. It has become cliché to have the rise, fall and rise again pattern for a boxing movie, which is a problem since that is the most beloved and entertaining story arc that there is.
Some points of the movie came quickly and felt rushed. The biggest disappointment of the movie was probably when Hoppy was killed. To be honest, I didn’t really care that the boy died. Billy Hope said, “I am afraid for Hoppy.” And I thought that it might get interesting, but it wasn’t further developed until he died. The entire point was the deciding factor for Tick (Forest Whitaker) to train Hope, even though he said he never would, which was a brief point that also wasn’t developed.
In true boxing movie fashion, there was the one knockout punch against the main opponent. The slow motion was beautiful and it reminded me of the slow motion punch from Brad Pitt’s movie Snatch. The slow motion wasn’t the problem, but rather the punch itself. It didn’t seem like a realistic punch. The rest of the fight scenes throughout had been very real and were actually shot with Jake Gyllenhall taking real punches, but this was a cheap trick thrown in by the writers to finish the story.
Southpaw, which I had high hopes for, turned into the underdog movie and ended in sub-spectacular fashion. The last fight turned into a commentated dance around the ring, which took me out of the ring and back into my seat. And while I liked that they tried to change up the camera style with the “punch cam,” it mostly left me confused about who was being hit and where I was when it switched back to normal.
Lastly, the title Southpaw was cheaply used and was a stunt for the ending. Having Forest Whitaker yell for the switch to Southpaw was a little too much for me.
I thought that the writers, directors and producers bit off more than they could chew. This story covered maybe two years, yet barely lasted two hours. In order to get the proper coverage, I feel like the people in charge of this film would have needed a step back and cut out just a few of the scenes, or make a few longer, to make the story more complete.
One of these would be the scene between the visits with his daughter. Each court date was a month apart, yet the scenes did not give the audience the proper feeling of longing and desire for the reunion of the two.
I think many of the scenes were treading a fine line on the verge of being absolutely horrible and being part of the best movie that we have ever scene. Unfortunately, they were “good.” They avoided the cliché and never pushed too hard for the repeated line or the flashback. Unfortunately, some of the movie just could not keep the standard due to poor writing (mostly 50 Cent’s character).
For a fun movie that has excellent violence, I highly recommend Southpaw. But if you want a movie that will be on your top 10 for the year or the top 100 of all time, look somewhere else.
Notable performances: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker
Forgettable/Terrible performances: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
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