Gyllenhaal packs a punch – Southpaw review

Nowadays, when I sit down to a sports related film, I need something that’s going to make my jaw drop; something that’s gonna give me goosebumps; something truly brilliant. It’s no surprise that this is hard to achieve, but not impossible. What I’m saying is Southpaw made my jaw drop, to an extent.

Southpaw tells the story of pro-boxer Billy Hope, a rather unhinged man both in and out of the ring. As his career is escalating, a tragic accident takes place, affecting both his family and his fighting. To get back on top, he turns to a local trainer, and that’s where things get interesting. I’ve read quite a few plot summaries online for Southpaw, and quite a few of them contain major spoilers so be careful when looking.

So let’s talk about Jake Gyllenhaal first of all. Let’s be honest was he going to be anything but incredible? The powerful, formidable leading star takes this film to a different level. How can he continue to be perfect in such different roles? If you haven’t seen Nightcrawler (last year’s Jake hit) go watch it cause it will blow you away. Then go see Southpaw and wonder to yourself how this can be the same guy. He brings in such a constant aggression to the role that keeps the viewer completely engrossed in Billy Hope.

Other cast members don’t let the side down either. Rachel McAdams stars as Hope’s wife, and although she isn’t prominent throughout the film she is still great here. Hope’s daughter Oona Laurence gives a very impressive performance, with some emotional moments that even the best of actors will be applauding. Forest Whitaker is the only person I have a slight issue with here. Although he gives a brilliant performance, there were some points I felt he was a bit over the top. But honestly I don’t think that’s anything to do with Forest Whitaker’s acting ability. Perhaps I didn’t fully engage with his character because there’s a lot we didn’t know about his story. Still great, just not perfect.

Think it’s safe to say Gyllenhaal is a bit of a bear…

However where the writer’s didn’t go wrong was with the dialogue. The film certainly doesn’t tone it back, which is perfect because it gives the film the gritty edge it needs to separate it from the rest. There is plenty of swearing, but hiy I’m Scottish, I love swearing! Also to praise are the boxing sequences, particularly those with POV shots. These not only add realism, but also put us in the ring with the fighters, feeling each punch thrown. Despite this though, this film focuses more on the characters rather than the fighting. Boxing feels more like a character here than just a backdrop to the story.

This is one of Antoine Fuqua’s finest films since the incredible Training Day, but unfortunately it isn’t a masterpiece. As well as the previous problem with Forest Whitaker’s character I mentioned, despite being gritty the film lacks that massively memorable quality. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll remember Gyllenhaal’s performance and some moments in the ring, but other than that I’m a bit stuck.

2011’s Warrior starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton is my favourite sports film ever. Now I know they’re different stories, not to mention different sports, but I can’t help but compare. Is it is good as Warrior? No. Is it worth watching? Definitely. Don’t let this fade away, it’s still a knockout.

Rating: Crackin

Interested? Check out the trailer.

What you thinking? Do you want to knock me out like Billy Hope? Or are you on my side? Whatever you’re thinking, let me know in the comments below or send a tweet using the widgets to @frew_cameron.

Published by

Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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