2015 / Director. Antione Fuqua.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
It can be said that if you’ve seen one fight movie then you’ve seen ‘em all, and it takes a whole lot of oomph to elevate any new entry into the genre. Over the last decade we’ve had a few triumphs by the way of titles such as WARRIOR, THE WRESTLER and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. The latest contender stepping into the ring is SOUTHPAW and it leaves a lot to be desired.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, a world champion boxer whose wife is killed when she gets caught in a chaotic confrontation between her husband and a rival fighter. Billy’s life quickly spirals out of control when his income dries up and he loses his house. Child services step in and remove his daughter and everything crashes and burns beyond his control. He hits the alcohol and drugs and finds himself cast out onto the streets. His only hope of redemption lies in an aged boxer played by Forest Whitaker, who owns a run down and dishevelled neighbourhood gym.
That synopsis does not serve the film well at all… and that is because SOUTHPAW is another run-of-the-mill boxing movie and nothing we haven’t seen before. It is balls-deep in cliché and convention and is only worthy of attention thanks to two stellar performances. Gyllenhaal and Whitaker are excellent and there is no question that both have invested a lot of time and energy into their performances. Gyllenhaal is amongst the greatest actors of his generation and what he brings to the screen here is nothing short of incredible. Sadly he is shrouded by a generic formula that is both predictable and lazy.
I found the film incredibly frustrating and would have expected more from both its drama and its action. The fight sequences are uninspired and I was constantly reminded that Scorsese and Avildson did it so much better over thirty years ago. As for the drama, well it’s delivered flawlessly but it’s all too familiar. I suspect that most of the praise levied at SOUTHPAW is directed towards the players and not the story. It’s very under whelming.