Southpaw – 3 out of 5
If you follow me on Twitter (which is @RevRonster, by the way) or are friends with me on Facebook or even just hear me rehash the usual gobbledygook every time I review a sports film you would know that I’m not a sports guy. I don’t play sports, I don’t watch them—hell, I don’t even understand any sports; however, I am quite fond of sports stories because of how they speak to the side of me that needs inspiration but doesn’t want to do any work afterwards when said inspiration is delivered. For example, I’m not a boxing fan but when I saw that Jake Gyllenhaal was in a boxing film written by the creator of Sons of Anarchy and directed by the man responsible for Training Day I was like, “That sounds like a home run or whatever the point system is in boxing.” So, how does Southpaw deliver?
|This is an example of a power play, right?|
Undefeated professional boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) sustains an eye injury in his latest fight and decides to retire at his peak at the behest of his wife (Rachel McAdams). However, a young and hungry boxer by the name of Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez) is eager to get in the ring with Hope but after an incident at a charity event takes his family away from him and sets him into a spiral of drugs and alcohol, the once unbeatable prize fighter finds himself losing every battle he finds himself in—including being suspended from boxing, losing his house and belongings and his daughter being taken away by Child Services. Now Hope must build himself back up as he seeks out training from a seasoned boxer named Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) in hopes that he can get his life back together in order to get his daughter and get back in the ring one last time and to give “Magic” Escobar the fight he so desperately wants.
|Enjoy their happiness while it lasts. This is a sports|
drama after all.
Usually when I watch a sports movie, the final moments of the film leave me pumped up and energized with a desire to get out and succeed triumphantly over adversity. Films like Rocky, Miracle and even The Mighty Ducks for crying out loud have that power to make you want to stand up and cheer but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get that same rush with Southpaw. Sure, the final moments of the film are definitely inspiring and seeing Hope struggle to get his life together is without a doubt dramatic but the film just didn’t have the usual power that most sports features have.
|The film does start off with this so that's a point in its favor.|
The biggest issues that I had with the film and that caused me to not get as invested as I wanted to be is the fact that the drama feels very routine. Sure, a lot of sports films go through the same motions in order to get the same emotional responses from the audience and Southpaw has all of these moments but they never feel as momentous or as impactful as other films did it. A big part of this is the fact the film’s antagonist; “Magic” Escobar, just doesn’t have a long enough of a presence in the film and with him being absent most of the feature the final fight just doesn’t feel as important as it should have been—this fight symbolized his return to the life he lost but it just felt a tad hollow.
|He sure looks intense though. Such a shame he didn't have a bigger part.|
Additionally, it stands to reason that Hope’s emotional breakdown is the story’s secondary antagonist but there comes a point where the hardships that Hope is going through doesn't feel as emotional as they could have been. Kurt Sutter is a great writer and really had me hooked with Sons of Anarchy but the drama in this film just wasn’t as griping as I’ve seen him accomplish in the world of TV.
|50 Cent is in the film. You can find him in da club and he wants you to come |
give him a hug. That's just what I've heard about the man.
|You can literally feel the intensity of Forest Whitaker's|
performance just in this picture alone.
This drawback could have easily killed the film and made the whole feature feel pointless but it’s not as bad as it might have come off in the last paragraph. Sure, I didn’t think the drama wasn’t as strong as it should have been but it still was good enough to have me invested in the story and see the redemption of Billy Hope. Ultimately, though, the best part of the film is the performances. It’s really no surprise that the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker are going to give amazing performances but I really enjoyed Oona Laurence as Leila Hope, Billy’s daughter. This young lady showed talent beyond her years and it was incredible watching her act out the character’s frustrations when she believes her father isn’t doing his all to get her out of Child Protective Services. Watching her breakdown and scream and smack her father for failing to not go all-in like he does in the ring was just an absolutely incredible scene and really showed the power of this young girl’s acting. Without a doubt, the best thing about this film is the cast.
|Try to contain your tears in this damn scene. Stronger men have tried and failed.|
Southpaw is a serviceable drama about a boxer trying to get his life back together but it’s probably not the strongest feature that’s been directed by Antoine Fuqua. I really liked the cast and their performances but I just couldn’t get into the story to the extent that I wanted to when I first watched the trailer. It’s in no way a terrible or unwatchable film but it just wasn’t as great as I hoped it would have been.