Saturday, August 08, 2015


Year: 2015
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, 50 Cent

Plot: Due to his reckless behavior, boxer Billy Hope loses everything. Now he has to pick himself back up with the help of a boxing trainer and win his daughter's love again.

Review: Southpaw is a term used to describe a left hander. In this case, it's something Billy Hope's trainer Tick Wills tells him to become in the closing moments of the film.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Hope, the light heavyweight boxing champion of the world who had it all; money, fame and a loving family in the form of his loving wife Maureen and little daughter Leila. But the man has a penchant for being reckless, and one day it inadvertently causes Maureen's death. From that point on, everything starts to fall apart for Billy. His debts rise, he loses his property, and he hits rock bottom when child services takes Leila away from him. So he has no other choice but to pull himself together and get his life back, starting with training to get back in the ring, with the help of no-nonsense trainer Tick Wills.

There have been many boxing films in the past, and Southpaw is not very different from them. But its strength lies in its execution. Southpaw is a tale of redemption, which is always a great story for the big screen. Director Antoine Fuqua puts most of his focus on his lead character Billy Hope, and lets the film become more than just about boxing. It is about a man's rags-to-riches-to-rags journey, and how he has to regain victory not just in the ring, but outside of it as well. To that end, Fuqua does well in showing the audience in a steady pace, Hope's fall from grace, and how he reacts to the big wake up call on the way people treat him when he's on top, and the contrast when he's not anymore, and how he eventually deals with it. 

Gyllenhaal trained well for the role of a boxer, but he was always a great actor and he proves it again here. As a boxer he looks totally ripped and convincing, but as a man on a journey of redemption, Gyllenhaal is simply awesome. Despite his flaws, Billy remains a likable man and you never stop rooting for him, even in his worst moments. It is to Gyllenhaal's credit that you love the character. Forest Whitaker, who only appears in the second half of the film, brings gravitas to the role of Tick Wills, who reluctantly agrees to give Billy a chance. Rachel McAdams shines in her brief role as Maureen, evidently the rock that holds Billy's life together until she tragically passes on. The revelation of this film is young Oona Laurence as Leila Hope. This girl is a fantastic actress for a 13 year old (though I'm guessing her on screen age is smaller) and she has a bright future ahead of her.

The only downside to this film is the predictability, though I admit I wasn't sure how Billy's fight at the end would turn out (because ultimately it doesn't really matter). Most boxing stories follow a certain thread if you've seen enough films of its ilk. But like I said, it's in the execution, so Southpaw is already a winner no matter what.

My advice: go watch this instead of the Fantastic Four remake that's also currently playing. (8/10)  

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