Movie Review: Southpaw (2015)

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Plot: As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope, begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

Rating: 7/10

You know those actors you dislike for no reason whatsoever? It isn’t based on their acting ability or the movies they’ve been in, it really is just because because. Their face? Their voice? No idea, but they make you itch on mere sight. Jake Gyllenhaal is that for me. I feel his eyes are too close and his surname is difficult to spell. He’s also related to a woman named Maggie, which may or may not be the real reason. He also freaked me out to no end in Donnie Darko. My point here is that I generally tend to avoid him at all costs, and it really isn’t because of his acting abilities.

Checking out Southpaw was thus a highly questionable venture as Gyllenhaal is the main character. About five minutes in I was engrossed and the film made me sweat bullets. Is that accurate to use here? Southpaw uses some cheap tricks for tears or to get their audience emosh, but it works. I was so involved and rooting for Billy Hope that I couldn’t care less if my favorite-actor-to-hate was in fact Billy Hope. It is your typical rags to riches to rags to riches again, you do get the expected training montage with Eminem blasting at the background, you do get a slick manager who is shady as hell, you do get your trainer that lifts your hero from the ground.

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Is it exhausting because we’ve seen this a thousand times? I don’t know about the other people, but I was just as invested in Billy’s crusade as I was with Rocky Balboa’s. Maybe I’m easily influenced and a bit of a softie, but I was there in the ring with him. I enjoy boxing movies and sport movies in general, so I guess I was programmed to appreciate this. I liked the soundtrack, it is satisfactorily badass. 50 Cent is about the only cast member who isn’t an above par actor, and since he’s cool (and I’m a little bit afraid of him), I didn’t have any issues particularly.

Gylllenhaal does a good job portraying a man that has clawed himself out of the foster care system and built himself an empire. It can’t be easy as I’m pretty sure he’s been privileged his entire life – being nasty again – but there is a roughness to the character that can only come from a life on the wrong side of the tracks.

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Rachel McAdams manages the same feat as Maureen, Billy’s wife. There was careful consideration to her character. I don’t know how to explain it, but the outfits she wears tells that she grew up somewhere else than her current life might indicate. Maureen was a wonderful character. I enjoy Rachel McAdams, but let’s face it, she doesn’t have many roles that aren’t catered to her Southern Belle persona. Maureen isn’t a southern belle, she’s a beautiful woman who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and managed to build her life up with the man she loves. She’s an excellent wife and mother and the center in Billy’s world.

Oona Laurence completes the Hope family as the geeky and sweet child of Billy and Maureen. She was adorable, not irritating as a character and a huge asset to the team. She made Billy’s struggles that much more legitimate and made everyone root all the more for him. She kept tight control of her role for the duration of the film and remained convincing to the very end.

I would have loved to see more of Forest Whitaker’s character. He’s a fantastic actor and taking on the role of Tick Wills couldn’t have been the most challenging role he’s ever done, and yet he did it with a level of experience that had you wondering who Tick was and what is it that made him train those boys in the gym so hard.

Southpaw is saved from being yet another boxing movie by outstanding performances by its’ cast, good costume work and directing and a badass sound track. I eventually deducted one point because it really is emotional abuse what I went through, but I am really pleased I sat through it.

Have you seen Southpaw? Tell me in the comments below!

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