If you are a fan of boxing movies like “Raging Bull,” “The Fighter,” and the “Rocky” franchise (too many to count), you will enjoy “Southpaw.” It’s not as good as the films previously mentioned, but it is an entertaining and emotionally-compelling film. The Director (Antoine Fuqua) is to be commended for getting excellent performances from the ensemble cast.
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the Light-Heavyweight Champion, but he is getting old and is being hit too much in his recent fights. His devoted wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), wants him to think about hanging up the gloves, or at least taking a time-out. Maureen is smart and makes the family decisions. Billy’s Manager/Promoter, Jordan Mains (50 Cent), however, has a 3-fight contract with HBO that he wants Billy to sign. Billy isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and he is psychologically fragile, having been raised along with Maureen in the same orphanage. They have a young daughter, Leila (Oona Lawrence), and are a happy family.
Unexpectedly, a tragedy occurs, sending Billy into a tail-spin. This is one of those movies that I can’t disclose anything more about the plot (without spoiling it), except to say that the fight scenes (about 20 minutes of the 2 hour film) are exciting and well-crafted.
Gyllenhaal was overlooked for an AW nomination last year in “Nightcrawler,” and he does another great job here. He looks like a boxer (see photo – he’s got a six pack on his six pack) and conveys several intense emotions without over-acting. He will probably get an AW nomination, but I don’t think the role is subtle or varied enough for him to take home the trophy. McAdams is her usual terrific self. (I think Rachel and Amy Adams are the 2 best female actors in their 30’s working today.) Oona Lawrence is fantastic and she deserves an AW nomination. Forest Whitaker also deserves an honorable mention for his role as Billy’s Trainer.
Will Billy be able to “pick himself up off the mat,” both in and out of the ring? Even if you hit me with a left hook, I’m not spilling the beans, so you will have to see it to find out!
Bottom Line – Southpaw packs a wallop!