Jake Gyllenhaal plays an intense boxer on a hard road to redemption in the thrilling, hard-hitting boxing movie, Southpaw! Read on for everything you need to know.
Southpaw follows the story of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), an orphan who has ascended through the boxing ranks to become one of the greatest in the sport. In Billy’s corner is his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams), daughter Leila (Oona Laurence), and his manager Jordan Mains (50 Cent). After a tragic event unfolds at a charity benefit, Billy spirals his way out of the boxing scene. With the threat of losing his family, before him, Billy elects the help of the best trainer he knows, Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), to bring him back to his former glory and put his family back together.
Southpaw is a beautiful redemption story that will have even the toughest of men shedding a tear. Director Antoine Fuqua, does a masterful job of allowing audiences to care about the characters, in such a short amount of time. In fact, that is one of the most impressive parts of Southpaw, the time management. Fuqua takes his time on this rollercoaster of a journey, taking special consideration to show us why we should care about the Hope family. I found myself rooting for Billy Hope to win it all because I felt like he deserved it. I wanted Billy to find the happiness and peace that he desperately seeks. So much so that it actually had me on the edge of my seat, during Billy’s fight against Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez). Not only is that a testiment to Fuqua’s talent as a director but also that of the cast, especially Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal’s depiction of Billy is astounding. Not only was his acting impressive but so was the training he did for this role. Gyllenhaal cranked up his workout to the max and transformed himself into a cut, beast of man. Not once have I ever thought that Jake Gyllenhaal could take me in a fight, until now. As Billy Hope, Jake Gyllenhaal became an intimidating force in the ring. Many would have expected a man with that much impact in the ring to translate that in his everyday home life. However, I was delighted to find it was just the opposite. A lot of people forget that outside of the ring, these fighters are just regular people, who care mostly about their family. Jake Gyllenhaal represents this well. As the film progresses, it’s hard not to marvel at how tremendous of an actor Gyllenhaal has become. He shows tremendous range, as we watch him navigate through different elements that life throws at him. Happiness, anger, depression, desperation, relief, and acceptance are just some of the many emotions Gyllenhaal conveys in Southpaw and it is beautiful to watch. It will be a tragedy if Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t receive at least an Oscar nomination for this role. He deserves it just as much as his boxing persona deserved the redemption he seeked.
However, we can’t forget about the rest of his supporting cast. Rachel McAdams’ character Maureen, while brief, manages to help us understand just why Billy needs her as his counterpart and why it’s such a tragedy when she’s no longer around. Out of every character in the movie, she cares the most about the boxing phenom. Thus her loss, leaves a massive hole in not only Billy’s life but also in the entire movie. This hole has to be replaced by Billy’s daughter, Leila. Oona Laurence does a great job filling the void left by McAdams. Leila is a very complex character. She has just lost her mom and is now forced to watch her only parent left spiral out of control to the point that she is taken away from him. Leila is made to mature at a very young age in order to help her and her father rebuild their life. Oona Laurence conveys all of this superbly. Lastly, Forest Whitaker’s character, Tick Willis may have been one of my favorites. He is a no nonsense tough guy whose mission is to help the underprivileged make a better life for themselves through boxing. Whitaker lands some of the funniest and inspiring lines in Southpaw. He proves himself to be an excellent trainer and an even better friend to Billy Hope.
While there are plenty of positives to say about Southpaw, we must also review the negatives. I mentioned earlier that Fuqua did a great job with the time management. However, in order to spend more time on building up the adoration of the Hope family, other scenes were left to the wayside and almost felt like afterthoughts. For instance, there was a young boy who starts to idolize Hope, as he trains to fight again. An incident occurs to him, however we don’t see it. In fact, it’s just mentioned and we’re meant to feel sorry. However, with it being such an afterthought, the emotion doesn’t really come through. Not as much as the loss of McAdams’ character. Not only that, but the events that unfold for the Hope vs Escobar fight, are so quick it almost makes the journey a little hard to believe. I would’ve liked to have seen Hope fight in multiple fights, even if just in a montage, before he ends up challenging Escobar, instead of one.
Despite its flaws, Southpaw is a well done emotional redemption story with more twists and turns than the trailer suggests. The entire cast and crew do an exceptional job in telling this story. The extra care that is taken in the beginning makes up for any plot holes that may come toward the end. For if you think about it, the entire story is really through the eyes of Billy Hope. It’s about him and his struggle to pick himself back up. If you look at it through that mindset, you will realize all the afterthoughts don’t really matter. Southpaw is worth seeing by all and should be at least an Oscar nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal.