What’s this? A non comic book film in a D&D Mixed Review? Is it still the summer? Let’s break the chain with as myself (Derek) and Denis talk about the new boxing film, Southpaw. The review will be split into four categories; PLOT, PERFORMANCE, PRODUCTION AND OVERALL FILM QUALITY. The review will then end with a score of SEE IN THEATRES, WAIT FOR STREAMING OR PASS. But before we get into the ring, here’s a look at the films basic plot.
Southpaw follows undefeated Champion boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). While Hope is the holder of two major titles, a new rival Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) tries to push Hope into fighting him. While he’s open to fighting the young challenger Hope’s wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), wants him to take time to heal.
With pressure coming from both Escobar and Hope’s agent, Jordan Mains (50 Cent), Hope tries to focus on his life before his next fight camp. However, this doesn’t happen when Escobar goats him into a fight at a charity event. While the two are seperated one of Escobar’s men pulls out a gun and fires, accidentally hitting Maureen and killing her.
With his wife gone, Hope is left to deal with the pain and take care of their daughter (Oona Laurence). After losing another fight Hope spins out of control and ends up crashing his car and losing his daughter to child services. In hopes to come back Billy looks to find a new direction by working with a former rival trainer, Titus Willis (Forest Whitaker).
With a new trainer and a new fighting style Hope gets his chance to fight the man he blames for all of his troubles.
Southpaw is your basic boxing story on paper, the tale of redemption. The fighter is down and out and must change up his style to beat the new champion. Watch any Rocky and you’ll see this trend. However, there are several points in Southpaw that just seem to not work due to scenes missing little things. Case and point, during during Hope’s training he meets a teenager who he takes under his wing. While we barely even get to know his name, Hope tells his trainer that he’s having issues at home and few scenes later we find out that he was killed. The scene lacked any of the emotional weight due to the fact this character is on camera for less then five minutes. These little story issues just end up taking me out of the story, and it’s the films biggest flaw.
The story is about a boxer which means it has the boxing movie arc that involves losing, struggling to fix yourself, training montage, and the final win. Some creative things are done to help make it more interesting than that, but still the movie is not compelling because of it’s plot. which is kind of odd since Kurt “Sons of Anarchy” Sutter wrote the film. It’s far tamer than Son’s which if it played into that more could have distinguished it as one of the grittiest boxing movies ever. But not so much.
We’ve not really had much chance to talk about him in these post before but man, Gyllenhaal is a good actor. This time he plays the boxer with a pain fetish extremely well and seems to revel in all of the anger the character throws behind each punch. Whitaker is also good, but most of his scenes fall under the aforementioned scenes that lack little pieces of character development. Past that he’s a solid, but not drawn out character. Finally, Rachel McAdams…she’s super hot…she’s in the film for like 25 minutes but hot damn, is she good looking. Also she gives a decent performance…I guess.
Gyllenhaal has had a great string of performances recently including Prisoners and Nightcrawler. This movie give him ample opportunity to create a performance that outshines the story. The supporting cast is solid, including great performances by Forest Whitaker and the actress that plays Gyllenhaals daughter. And yes McAdams was good, and unlike Derrek I did not watch her act with drool in my mouth. She and her prominent cleavage played the dead wife well.
Southpaw falls in line with the modern trend in combat sport movies like Warrior and Rocky Balboa, with the fights bouncing from PPVesc footage to handheld shaky close ups for dramatic effects. Some of the more impressive shots come in the final fight which featured some fun first person perspectives. This added to the impact and damage the two characters were taking. Outside of the ring this creativity isn’t matched, with the traditional use of dramatic close ups used a little too much.
The fights were pretty well shot and each really showcased the pain one goes through in the ring. It was well shot and edited so I could follow what was going on, but outside of the ring we would occasionally have to watch conversations with the camera struggling to keep up like a drunk uncle. Aside from the shaky cam the movie’s production helped put you in the movie and carries you along as you watched Gylenhall’s face get less handsome.
Southpaw plays out a lot like you’d imagine. The shots and writing all feel like Rocky with little plot elements added here to stop it from being a full remake. Gyllenhaal, Whitaker and McAdams are good but there’s little for the latter two to do past give speeches or die. Along with that, the movie tries to pull at your heart strings but fails due to not flushing anyone out fully. These elements makes this film hard to really recommend. In the sea of summer films, this one stands out as not a comedy or action film, that being said it still has some serious flaws. WAIT FOR STREAMING.
I was hoping to be surprised by what Southpaw had to offer. While the trailer spoiled many of the story beats of the movie I still thought it could deliver a stellar boxing film. But it felt quite typical, we in fact saw a trailer for the upcoming CREED movie which is also about boxing, and it looked almost identical. While the cast delivers great performances, the boxing formula holds it back from really being something new and special. WAIT FOR STREAMING.
Southpaw was produced by WanDa Pictures, Riche Productions, Escape Artists and Fuqua Films. The film is distributed by the Weinstein Company.