From Ranging Bull and Rocky to more recent Cinderella Man and The Fighter boxing movies have always pulled on the heartstrings of movie audiences (and Oscar voters). Me on the other hand prefer baseball or even golf flicks, and really aren’t ALL sports movies the same (A man or woman trying to prove his/her worth to self, loved ones and the sport). Then an actor I admire made a film in which he plays a boxer and being the person I am I had to see it.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua and Written by Kurt Sutter Southpaw is that film. The wonderful, amazing and not bad to look at Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope a successful boxer, whose name comes with its own catchphrases and is on top of his game until tragically hits his small close nit family. Now Billy must find a way to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move on with his life.
At the center of Southpaw is a story about the love and devotion between a father and his young daughter but there is a little bit more. There is love between a husband and wife, anger of a young girl who cares so much for her dad and just wants him in her life and frustration for that dad who doesn’t know how to cope and what to do next. While watching this film I didn’t expect to feel so much emotion for these characters (I was surprised when I cried). Newcomer (from broadways Mitilda) Oona Laurence plays Leila Billy’s daughter who just wants to support him during his fights. The scenes (one in particular where she is becomes so mad at him that things get physical) between Laurence and Gyllenhaal are so genuine and beautiful they put you right into the middle of the story. As for Gyllenhaal himself, well you know you are watching a good performance when the actor seems to disappear and all you can see and care about is the character (Seeing Billy still in pain from head to toe the morning after a fight helped me understand what these guys go through for their career).
In fact every scene felt raw and real. While watching the first fight scene I got a little dizzy and realized why I’m not a boxing fan. By the time the final fight came along it was as if I was watching a horror movie as I hid my eyes and watched through my fingers, there is a P.O.V shot from Billy that had me ducking (with him) behind the seat in front of me. Then there is there music, I’m sure each hip-hop song was chosen particular for the scene it accompany ( I admit I got into the rhythm of the music) and although it’s hard to hear (because the viewer rarely does and I will pay closer attention next time) I’m sure the late James Horner’s music made the film better.
The film also stars Forest Whitaker as Tick Wills a former boxing trainer turned local gym owner, Rachel McAdams as Maureen Billy’s longtime supportive wife, 50 Cent as Jordan Mains Billy’s boxing promoter and Miguel Gomez as Miguel Escobar a boxer as good as Billy. All are great and make the film the perfect piece of art that it is.
I wasn’t expecting to like the movie but do to the director, cast and crew’s credit I really enjoyed each second of every frame, although I don’t think I will be watching another boxing film anytime soon (I’ve seen enough bloody faces) unless of course Jake Gyllenhaal makes a sequel to Southpaw.