In theaters this Friday from director Antoine Fuqua, writer Kurt Sutter and The Weinstein Company comes the jab from a “Southpaw.”
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the current title holder in boxing, enjoying the good life with wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) Keeping his career going is Mains (Curtis Jackson) who sets up fight after fight.
After a recent win, Billy is confronted by hungry fighter Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) who wants his shot at the title. At a charity event, Escobar taunts the hot-headed Billy and chaos breaks out and Maureen is the casualty.
Quickly he is dropped by Mains and everyone else who was on Billy’s ride to fame and glory. Falling down in every way possible, he loses all his possessions and, worst of all, Leila is taken as well.
Now Billy must start his life from scratch meeting trainer and gym owner Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker). Asking for a job and a chance, Willis becomes more than a trainer as the opportunity to win back his daughter and the title are in front of him.
The fight starts now!
Gyllenhaal as Billy once again turns in an amazing performance. This is clearly a man with a history of a rough life turning it around and making it huge in the boxing world. Trusting his wife to help make the right decisions for their life, he loses control of that life once the rug is pulled out. In great shape physically, Gyllenhaal’s boxer has seen one fight to many with obvious physical and even some mental disabilities.
That has never been the issue with Gyllenhaal as he’s constantly proven with such films as “Jarhead,” “Zodiac,” “Prisoners” and the absolutely brilliant “Nightcrawler.” His ability to play each of these characters with such force as to make them memorable keeps me frustrated that there isn’t a gold statue on his mantle.
Whitaker as Willis is a coach who has a few problems of his own but I’m not clear on what they are really. Taking on Billy Hope has its problems and after some initial hesitation by both of the men, their relationship becomes a strong one.
Laurence as Leila is so sweet and vulnerable. Going from one tragedy to another she reacts as any little girl would. Once she has time to bring it all back together, Laurence brings strength and a sassiness that works.
Other cast include: Naomie Harris as Angela Rivera, Victor Ortiz as Ramone, Clare Foley as Alice, Beau Knap as Jon Jon, Skylan Brooks as Hoppy, Dominic Colon as Mikey and Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Southpaw” three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. The biggest credit goes to Gyllenhaal who, once again, gives an amazing performance but is that enough? I just wanted this film to be so much more than it was so it will be up to movie goers to decide if that ‘so much more’ is good enough.
The script, however, is muddled leaving nothing but obvious questions. How is it possible that a murder goes uninvestigated? How is it possible that Escobar still gets to fight after that? When did Billy go to anger management classes? How did the issue with Hoppy get thrown in and then thrown out in one scene? Where did the nanny come from at the end? These things might seem silly but if I notice them, trust me, others will notice them and more.
In the end — believe in hope!