I know absolutely nothing about boxing and I have zero interest in learning but I do find sports films surprisingly entertaining and, on occasion, down right emotional. I still haven’t recovered from the devastation of Friday Night Lights. Southpaw could have focused on any sport and I would have gone to see the film with the same expectations.
Jake Gyllenhaal was the main draw and it is never a chore to sit through his films. Despite rumblings of middling reviews my expectations for Southpaw were quite high as it had the potential to be the surprise hit of the summer.
PLOT: After the death of his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and his child is taken into care, former boxing superstar Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to turn his life around. Before you can say Motivational Montage Billy is given the opportunity of a lifetime to fight his former adversary in a life changing match in Vegas. END PLOT
The plot of Southpaw isn’t anything new or spectacular and follows every single beat one would expect to find in a sports movie - Billy has it all, falls from grace then rises like a Phoenix from the ashes in a tense finale. This isn’t necessarily a complaint as the script is always engaging. It’s just unfortunate that it isn’t capable of offering anything new to the genre.
As the plot doesn’t contain any real surprises Southpaw relies on the performances of the cast to see it through. Jake Gyllenhaal gives another strong performance and I thank him for looking good shirtless. Gyllenhaal is an excellent actor but Southpaw merely confirms what we all know rather than being his opportunity to make it to the big league aka the best male actor categories. His time will come.
Forest Whitaker, as Billy’s new trainer, puts in all the efforts required to earn an obviously sought after best supporting actor nod and relative newcomer Oona Laurence is excellent as Billy’s young daughter. Child performances can be hit or miss but Laurence’s ability to act made the father/daughter moments stand out and create the films key emotional moments. Rachel McAdams also pops up in a small but memorable role as Billy’s wife Maureen.
I have no idea how authentic the boxing scenes were but to an untrained eye they were always entertaining. The sweaty toned torsos added to the spectacle quite nicely. I was appropriately stressed during the final round of the boxing match so the action can be considered a job well done.
Southpaw was a thoroughly entertaining film despite its lack of originality. It gets 7/10. I can’t imagine it becoming an early runner for any major awards nominations and I very much doubt that the soundtrack will be making an appearance on my ipod but in terms of a good time at the cinema it served its purpose very well.