Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, 50 Cent, Forest Whittaker
Admittedly, I was excited for Southpaw. Jake Gyllenhaal transformed himself drastically for the role, and the last time he did that for Nightcrawler, it turned out really well. This time, he’s hit the gym and beefed the fuck up to play Billy Hope, an out-of-luck boxer whose violent sociopathic tendencies may have won him the title of light heavyweight champion of the world, but also end up costing the life of his doting wife (Rachel McAdams).
With an atrocious script, Southpaw wastes no time checking off every sports movie cliché at a speed that feels more like parody than a movie gunning for Oscar nominations Wife dies? Check. Guy trains in a run-down gym in the bad part of town? Check. Mentors a young, at-risk teen who reminds him of himself? Check. That kid ends up dying unexpectedly? Check. Final fight serves not only as protagonist’s narrative end-goal, but also as thematic closure for their internal development? Checkity-check.
Throughout the course of the film, Hope’s daughter becomes less and less connected to her father as she learns that the man she idolises is nothing more than a physical manifestation of primitive masculine rage. Antoine Fuqua’s previous work indicates a preoccupation with extreme violence and aggression, and that is very much on show in this film. But right at the start of the third act as the ‘big fight’ is coming up, Hope’s daughter does a complete U-turn and starts rooting for him. A much better movie would have abandoned any sympathy for Hope. What results in Southpaw is a film that says ‘Don’t worry guys! Violence is the answer! Just so long as you, y’know, don’t get too carried away with it.’
Review by Cameron Moyses