“Boxing is the only sport you can get your brain shook, your money took and your name in the undertaker book.” – Joe Frazier
You can choose to view a movie like this as nothing more than cliche and you wouldn’t be wrong; short-sighted maybe but not exactly wrong. I see Southpaw as a prime source of inspiration and a great example of determination and fortitude. On screen is a character with more flaws than teeth but with the ultimate aptitude to persevere and succeed. In order to bring such a complex, emotional and undoubtedly physical character to life, Jake Gyllenhaal once again transformed himself into an entirely different person. Talks between the director of Southpaw, Antoine Fuqua and Gyllenhaal began as Gyllenhaal started shooting Nightcrawler. Because of his dramatic weight loss for that film some questions naturally arose about his ability to regain not only weight but pure muscle- fifteen pounds of it. Much like the character he was vying to play he had to prove that he could physically and mentally alter himself into that of a professional boxer.
Putting aside his physical transformation, Gyllenhaal’s dramatic performance is unsurprisingly authentic and inspiring. However, no matter how strong a lead’s performance is, if the supporting cast doesn’t show up, then all will be for naught. Not only did they show up this time, I believe there are some well-earned Oscar nominations in their future – specifically newcomer Oona Laurence who plays Gyllenhaal’s daughter. She is particularly phenomenal despite being among veteran actors at least three times her age. She delivers a heartbreaking performance wrought with anguish and abandonment. She is truly something special and someone to keep an eye on in her very bright future. Forest Whitaker brings another top-notch performance as the weary gym owner and trainer. The subject matters faced in this story are challenging and unimaginably sad and with such a strong cast to carry the story, Southpaw is one not to miss.
I had been anticipating this one for a while and thankfully it surpassed my expectations. What truly won me over is that the subject of boxing takes a back seat to a much more precarious subject of family lost and family left behind. In this case it’s a father trying his best to hold himself together in the face of personal tragedy all the while maintaining a healthy relationship with his young daughter. Written by the bastard of bastards (I say that lovingly) Kurt Sutter (creator of Sons of Anarchy), a story by him wouldn’t be true to who he is without a lot of hardship for his characters. So that balance of life maintenance between his professional and personal life is ripped to unrecognizable shambles of a once put together fairytale. Like a phoenix, this boxer and father must raise himself from tragedy into something formidable in the ring and relatable in the home. With a blocked mind and lack of a moral compass, this will be less than easy for the once great boxing champion of the world, Billy Hope.
Sports movies get men in the spot that no other films can. Why that is I have no idea but Southpaw is no different. Man or woman, this causes the audience to cheer and cry like blubbering idiots for this character to fulfill his potential as a boxer and father. Is it predictable? Sure. Was it ever trying to be a murder mystery? No. So in that light let go of the predictability and enjoy this dramatic telling of loss and second chances. And don’t be afraid to shed some tears (man tears, dammit!) because there are many moments that will test your ability to keep your eyes dry. This is meant to be inspiring and entertaining and Southpaw is an absolute success in that regard. I can’t recommend this film enough. Just to clarify, it’s meant to inspire you to reach for your dreams, not to punch someone in the face on your way to the parking lot. Okay? Cool. Enjoy Southpaw, I know I did.
Rated R For: language throughout, and some violence
Run Time: 123 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Drama, Sport
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, Naomie Harris
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
BONUS! Check out the killer track from Eminem inspired by the film:
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