“Southpaw” Packs A Punch

Jake Gyllenhaal’s exceptional performance as fictional light heavyweight champion Billy “The Great” Hope propels “Southpaw” to lofty heights. No, the new boxing melodrama directed, by Antoine Fuqua and written by Kurt Sutter, doesn’t quite live up to the high standards of “Rocky” or “Raging Bull”.

It lacks the artistic quality of each of those films and too often borrows its motifs from previous boxing movies to reach that high a standard. But despite the constant bombardment of overused clichés, “Southpaw” ends up being an emotionally stirring film, one worth watching and contemplating after.

The movie’s greatest accomplishment is its attempt at realism. While real boxing isn’t quite so over-the-top as depicted in almost every boxing film ever made, Fuqua at least attempts to show the subtle nuances of the sweet science. If Hope were a real boxer, he’d be a cross between the late Arturo Gatti and what most currently believe Gennady Golovkin will turn out to be. He’s a fierce and skilled offensive force of nature that goes after opponents with everything he has.

The movie opens with Hope as an undefeated light heavyweight champion on the verge of retirement. He’s the type of action star fight fans love. He delivers knockouts, and does so at the expense of his own body. But while the boxing shown in the movie seems to be the best of Gatti-Ward for every second of action, Fuqua at least shows the toll such brutality takes on a fighter and emphasizes the importance of footwork and defense. After one such Gatti-esque title defense, Hope cannot even take off his own socks because of the beating he took.

There are other things the movie gets right, too. Its depiction of the shady characters in boxing is spot on. It isn’t so much that Hope’s promoter, Jordan Mains, played by Curtis Jackson, is evil. It’s that he’s always looking out for his best interests the way real boxing promoters do. Oh sure, he might say things to his fighters like they are family and such, but that’s all just part of the game. Boxing is full of these types: people who say things they don’t mean to people they don’t care about solely so they can take advantage of them.

As seen in the preview, Hope’s wife, Maureen, played by Rachel McAdams, is tragically shot and killed when Hope gets in a scuffle with a rival contender after a charity event. McAdams’ performance is as noteworthy as Gyllenhaal’s, albeit in much less screen time. In fact, the formulaic events that transpire as the film progresses seem less so because of this dynamic duo’s artistic efforts. Gyllenhaal and McAdams are simply outstanding, probably the saving grace of the movie overall.

The movie tugs at your heartstrings. Hope’s struggle in being a father to his daughter, Leila, after his wife dies leads many in the audience to tears during multiple times during the film. It almost seems to be overly done. But the ultimate redemption of the appropriately named Hope as both a fighter and a father leaves the watcher exactly where he or she probably wants to be by the end of movie: feeling redeemed.

“Southpaw” is a modern-day “Rocky.” What is lacks in heart and humor, it makes up for in grit and edginess. You won’t fall in love with Hope, his wife or his daughter the way you fell for Rocky and Adrian Balboa. But you will root for the characters none-the-less because they seem so real. This film is a knockout.

SCORE: 8/10

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COMMENTS

-Bernie Campbell :

Grandson of the fecal heap Rocky! More Caucasion Propergander! You wanna good realistic Boxing Movie? Body and Soul, John Garfield!


-stormcentre :

Fiddy better hope the movie makes some moolah after his recent $15M court appointed (interestingly narrated sex tape) loss and subsequent bankruptcy rumors. :)


-Kid Blast :

horrible movie with an incoherent plot. Unrealistic Rocky bull sh-t with each punch looking like one that would maim or kill an ordinary boxer. Ugh.


-Kid Blast :

" ?Southpaw? lacks insight and commercially viability. It is a boxing movie in name only. The main character could have been anyone. That he is a boxer is incidental. Billy goes from riches to rags back to riches again, the oldest story in the book. ?Southpaw? plucks the heartstrings, ladies bring your hankies, but it?s cheap sentimentality, paint-by-numbers filmmaking at its most regressive. There are boxing elements in the film, but the boxing, like the film, is a cartoon on steroids."


-Ramrod Jab :

I had to laugh when I saw the poster up for Southpaw. Gyllenhall wasn't even in southpaw stance lol. Going to go and see the movie in the next few days


-Radam G :

I had to laugh when I saw the poster up for Southpaw. Gyllenhall wasn't even in southpaw stance lol. Going to go and see the movie in the next few days
So true about old dude not being in a proper southpaw stance. One would think that the promoters of the flick would get something as minute as the proper stance correct. The flick lost tons of credibility for those poster screw ups. Holla!


-amayseng :

Yikes, Southpaw yet he is an orthodox fighter? or just in the poster?


-Domenic :

He must have employed Hagler's first 2 rounds tactic versus Leonard in the poster. Recreating boxing scenes in a way that looks even remotely realistic, is possibly the toughest thing to do in film. It's always the same. Big haymakers being thrown and landed at will and 6/7 knockdowns per round. It's basically satire, to me. And the actor is very skilled, but his management should've told him to steer clear of this one.


-brownsugar :

Forrest Whitaker is usually great in roles like this,.... The stern, grumpy, bedraggled no nonsense, no compromising coach who draws the best out of his pupils, reminds me of the old masters in those old hong Kong kung fu movies. Its always so difficult to join their class but if accepted, the protagonist learns the the kind of skill he could have never developed on his own Same story, different setting, ....along with the ultra-punishing, come-from-behind-win, even though he's virtually dead on his feet. Only the fight scenes resemble Mortal Kombat, or Blood Sport #1 with Jean Claude Van Damme, or a John Wayne bar-fight more than it does boxing, .....will they ever get it right? Still, ......I will check it out,....I'm also interested in watching "Creed", which should have a storyline with a twist. There was supposed to be a movie about Sugar Ray Loenard in the works staring Usher. I'm curious about it but Usher can't act and looks nothing like Sugar Ray. The movie is coming in 2016, hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised....currently I'm content watching " Antman ". The very best boxing movies in my opinion are the true life documentaries. The Documentary on Ali is one of the best movies, I've ever seen from any genre. I'd love to see the definitive documentary about the Golden Boy; Del La Hoya, ....19 PPV fights, titles in 6 or seven, weight classes, law suits against Arum, Haymon and Schaefer...constantly changing trainers and blaming the fired trainers for his losses. Going to rehab multiple times and overcoming drugs and alcohol, ..... starting his own Company etc.... There's possibly more footage on Oscar than there is on any other current hall of famer.. ( make it happen ) Finally, when is a movie producer going to flip the script on the Status quo boxing story.... When are they going to make the story about a fighter who was born to box?,.... Why does every fight movie have to end with the protagonist getting beaten within an inch of his life before the miraculous come back?....for just once can we possibly get a fighter who knows how to fight? The movie starts off about a kid who is a natural and never has a hard fight, never has to struggle or come from behind.... has the blue print for every opponent he ever faced, and Schools his world renowned rival in a one sided fight that causes the public to experience deep remorse and denial....... Incurs the hate of the world while he retires undefeated and rides off into the sunset with a quarter billion dollar payday in his saddle bag, ....laughing all the way to the bank with middle finger raised at his detractors as he transitions into a role outside of the ring. Just call it "Floyd"..guaranteed block buster in about 10 years,... The world is not ready for it yet.


-The Commish :

I had to laugh when I saw the poster up for Southpaw. Gyllenhall wasn't even in southpaw stance lol. Going to go and see the movie in the next few days
After you see the movie, you'll understand why Gyllenhaal is in the orthodox stance on the poster. The fight scenes were done a bit differently than in most other boxing movies. Most were up tight and almost out of focus, giving the viewers more of an audible sound of punches landing and grunts and crowd noise. Overall, it wasn't a waste of my time/money to see it. I did think my wife used a bit too many tissues, though! -Randy G.


-Kid Blast :

Grim. I want my money back. It was simply awful--but then most fight movies are. Not all, just most.


-Radam G :

After you see the movie, you'll understand why Gyllenhaal is in the orthodox stance on the poster. The fight scenes were done a bit differently than in most other boxing movies. Most were up tight and almost out of focus, giving the viewers more of an audible sound of punches landing and grunts and crowd noise. Overall, it wasn't a waste of my time/money to see it. I did think my wife used a bit too many tissues, though! -Randy G.
Was she tearing up because of emotional scenes or awful ones? Or a bit of both? Hehe! Holla!


-Domenic :

Haha, it might have been the awful ones that had her crying! Good line. I'm going to stay open minded, but my expectations are very, very low. I'll see it when it runs on HBO or Showtime or whatever. I've pretty much sworn off boxing movies since Diggstown. People loved Million Dollar Baby, I just didn't get it. It was ok, I guess. I got halfway through the Paul Giammati as trainer one; I think Russell Crowe was James Braddock. I didn't do well with that one either. I know they were talking about a Vinny Pazienza movie. I won't wait in line for that one. It was said earlier, but boxing documentaries are where it's at. Get real documentarians like Ken Burns and other top guys and you can't go wrong.


-stormcentre :

Personally, I thought the script and production was a let down, given what it could have been. Not sure whether or not if that's because Gyllenhaal (playing a southpaw) used Cotto (whom is not a southpaw) as his understudy - or if it's because the producers and investors just wanted the end product finished quickly, regardless of how superficial it ended up being rushed. To me the movie was underdeveloped drama produced - too obviously - to a budget, and as a result context and character/plot development suffered. The way the film fluttered through various scenes and failed to not only develop them - but also its own background and sub plots - that normally add to the realism and depth of a movie; was concerning and sometimes funny. After all, they (the producers and investors) already started behind the 8 ball and had a few value points to claw back, with the consideration/fact that Gyllenhaal - as shown - was never going to realistically look and move like a real professional fighter, let alone a fluent lefty; a typical let down in most boxing movies - regardless of stance. By my above comments about the movie fluttering through various scenes and failing to develop them, what I mean is that there was almost no - or not enough - tangible structure within the film, and that impacted the depth of realism and character development in my view. They just screamed through scenarios and scenes as if it were a superhero movie - where the producers can rely on viewers suspending their logic and, where it suits, subjecting themselves to the imaginary. For example, the supposedly earth shattering state secrets (that obviously had a purpose in the movie) - the courtroom legal mechanisms and considerations, and all the other assumed plot-related aspects pertaining to interrogations and even the inner workings of businesses. These all (assumedly) had a purpose within the movie related to underpinning it as closely as possible to "the reality of da actuality" and also ensuring that viewers experienced context with the main plotline. Yet the movie sped through these ancillary plots and considerations without really developing the associated story/characters enough in these areas; which in turn lent a superficial element to the "show" which left me subconsciously (now that I think of it) not wanting to invest too deeply in the other parts of the movie that may have been (intended to be) more important. And if that was not bad enough, whenever that seems to happen in a movie my mind starts to wander off to thinking about the script's overall predictability, and with that comes the overall inescapability of what the ending will (usually) be; which we all knew even before we purchased tickets. This (Southpaw script) really is a tried, proven, and well worn out format (the movie about a boxer that overcomes all odds); so in my opinion all those above-mentioned things about depth of script (or lack thereof), underdeveloped sub-plots, and underdeveloped characters, really matter. That is if we are not to just consider, perceive, and experience the "Southpaw" boxing-movie to be just another story about . . . a down and counted out fighter, whom engineers a miraculous turn around against impossible odds . . . movie. If it were not for the cast, this movie would be a real dud in my view. Kind of like how that mafia movie - where DeNiro plays the top Boss but with psychological issues that only Billy Crystal's character can assist with - due to how unbelievable and possibly poorly written its script was, would have been totally useless with just entry level "A" actors, or less. But even then, at times, with "Southpaw" you can also see some of the actors genuinely wrestling and providing a less than convincing performance as a result of the material they have to work with; which really is not entirely unfair or inaccurate to call it a less than stimulating, and at times, hopelessly weak and/or ordinary bland script that often seems to loose and the re-discover its context/clarity. At times, I found myself cringing and/or laughing, when that was clearly not the intention of the movie. Which is never a good sign. Gyllenhaal, at times - unless I am delusional (and you all know I am not :) ) even seems to not know what to say in a manner that his character and/or the script - whether it be the movie-scripted result of too many shots to the head or not - has a hard time convincing me was intended. Kind of like the person holding Gyllenhaal's cue card went to the toilet and no-one noticed that before they started another "take" on the set. McAdams is a real honey that I want to "meet", but I don't like my chances there. She also, at times, seems to struggle with her character Maureen, and as a result "Maureen" doesn't really flow from her like she really inhabits the role. 50 Cent, as both an investor and actor in "Southpaw", seems to do his best to ensure his knowledgeable street gangsta heritage is suppressed - but only just - under the surface of his character "Jordan", so that only those parts of it that he deems aesthetically pleasing for the circumstances get to filter through. But - as the lyrics in his rap music and his many interviews substantiate - this is also nothing new from him. Some of Fifty's lines are also a little cheesy (or reminiscent of a Steven Segal movie) too in my opinion. Forrest Whitaker does a good job, and he almost always allows you to subject yourself to his character. But then, even aside from how good his acting skills really are; I have long thought that the atypical actor and possibly one that is not always so "Hollywood glamorously beautiful" will usually - for some reason - lends themselves to performances that viewers are more willing to subject themselves to and believe. All up the
Storm gives the movie, at most, a 6.5 or 7 out of 10. The main actors save the underdeveloped (budgeted?) film, and if not for them the movie would be a real dud in my view. The fact that Whitaker, McAdams, and Gyllenhaal (and possibly also Col?n, Laurence, and Ortiz (Victor)) are in the movie, and also the fact that the movie was about boxing, meant that - for me - there was, for the most part, a reasonably pleasant distraction from all the other let downs. Including how forced the acting was at times, and also how underdeveloped the script was. Overall though, this movie would have been far better if the fighting spirit and mortal element both it and we all possess was not so obviously undermined by a script and production that not only failed to complement what the main actors were probably capable of - but also possibly failed to stimulate them to deliver really exciting and believable performances. Time to get "The Cinderella Man" out of the drawer again. Or . . watch a real fight. :) :)


-Kid Blast :

He was "better" in Brokeback Mountain