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Film Review: 'Southpaw'

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JAKE GYLLENHAAL stars in 'SOUTHPAW.' Photo by Scott Garfield.

In Antoine Fuqua’s new film, Southpaw, Jake Gyllenhaal packs a punch as the current Light Heavyweight Champion of the World Billy Hope.

Outside the ring, the boxing champ is surrounded by his loving family, wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence), and a bro-tastic group of friends, including manager Jordan Mains (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). When the unthinkable happens, Billy’s world crumbles. He loses his family; his home and his “loyal” bros follow the money trail to his rival Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez).

In trying to pick up the pieces and figure out his next move, Billy turns to Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), owner and trainer of a run-down gym, for a job to get him back on his feet. Under Tick’s guidance, Billy finds his way back to ring for the fight of his life.

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(L-R) FOREST WHITAKER and JAKE GYLLENHAAL star in 'SOUTHPAW.' © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights reserved. Credit: Scott Garfield.

Without a doubt, Gyllenhaal is the standout in this film. It’s incredible to see the different performances that he’s proved capable of from 2013’s Prisoners and Enemy to last year’s Nightcrawler and now Southpaw. He brought an extraordinary (and obviously demanding) physicality to the role and channeled the rage that was necessary to make Billy Hope come alive in the ring. The first match that the audience sees Billy in at the start of the film speaks to that. The cinematography by Mauro Fiore is top notch and really does an impressive job of capturing who Billy is in the ring. Also, the way Fuqua decided to shoot the boxing matches was intense, yet exciting and added a level of authenticity to the film.

Then there’s the script, which was a little bit on the predictable side. Billy’s impending rivalry with Magic is introduced early on in the film and it seemed like it started at a simmer and quickly reached its boiling point, to where the audience knows that these two characters are going to be face-to-face in a boxing ring before the end of the film. I am a fan of a good redemption story as much as the next person, however it was just way too easy to connect the dots throughout the 123-minute film.

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(L-R) JAKE GYLLENHAAL and OONA LAURENCE star in 'SOUTHPAW.' © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights reserved. Credit: Scott Garfield.

As far as boxing films go, Southpaw should be fulfilling for sport enthusiasts. For fans of Gyllenhaal’s, this film shows that he’s not shying away from these intense and overall compelling types of roles. And that he probably has another awards season to look forward to.

Southpaw is in theaters now. 

 

Rating: 3/5 stars