Boxing movies aren’t typically my forte, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch an advanced screening of Southpaw.
Southpaw is a film about a boxer named Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) who loses everything he loves and has to fight to get it back. He is undefeated as the World Light Heavyweight Champion and is convinced by his wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), to call it quits while he is on top of the game. This is mostly due to his exponentially decreasing in-ring performance and his becoming more susceptible to injuries. While he is at the ceremony to announce his retirement, another boxer, Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez), approaches him and irritates Hope to the point of an altercation. In the midst of all this, his wife is shot and killed, which is the start of Billy’s downward spiral.
Following this, he loses everything he has, including custody of his daughter, and he flattens out at rock bottom. This opens up opportunity at a new beginning and Hope realizes that he needs to turn his life around, start a new life, get his daughter back in his custody, and get back in the ring to defeat Escobar as the final nail in the coffin of the loss of his wife, and the negative lifestyle he adopted. As he starts his climb back to the top, he gets a job with Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker) at a boxing school, and he starts over and trains to become a better boxer than he had ever been. His daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence), also has to battle her personal demons after losing her mother, and the movie puts a heavy focus on the tattered father-daughter relationship as it restructures following this life-changing situation. The entire plot sounds pretty cliche, but it is executed so beautifully, that it easily has taken place on my ranking as one of the best films of 2015.
The film was given a great cast, so it was just about a dead giveaway that the performances would be enjoyable. Jake Gyllenhaal has been very diverse in his ability to play a wide variety of characters, and the anger, emotion, and depression that he was able to execute as Billy Hope in Southpaw are raw proof that he can flawlessly fill any shoes you put him in. Rachel McAdams and Oona Laurence played great supporting roles, and although I’ve griped about child actors having poor performance in the past, Laurence plays a phenomenal role as the daughter of Billy. There is a scene in the film where she is at the worst part of her emotional recovery to losing her mother, and the way she displayed emotion in that scene is worthy of an award. Forest Whitaker does an incredible job of playing the trainer. There is also a pretty emotional scene involving him that is noteworthy. Overall, the cast stands tall as one of the elements that crafted this incredible film.
I’ve read in many places that Southpaw’s soundtrack was overdone, but I feel like it’s an unnecessary gripe. The soundtrack is full of some heavy hitting artists including Eminem and Frank Ocean (Ocean is not on the soundtrack you can purchase, however, but his music is in the film). With that being said, there wasn’t any moment in the movie where I found myself saying, “Oh, the movie is ruined cause it just has so much mainstream music.” The soundtrack in Southpaw was very enjoyable, and I think accented the film just fine. Hearing the finished version of Frank Ocean’s “Wiseman” was one of the highlights of the movie for me in itself, and I think it helped set the tone of the scene it’s played in. I advise you not to listen to the naysayers and take my word when I say Southpaw has one of the best soundtracks of all the films I’ve seen in 2015.
Southpaw had an abundance of ups, but that’s not to say that it flawlessly went the distance. My cardinal gripe about this film was that it was incredibly cliché. With that being said, every boxing film ever released is also equally cliché. This is a heads-up to those of you that just can’t stand another predictable plot. The film follows that typical formula that I won’t spoil for those of you that have never seen a movie about a man or woman who loses everything and has to fight to get it back. Aside from that, there is a part of the film that involves the death of a character, and I think they should’ve put some more emphasis on the loss or the character itself. It was one of the more heart-wrenching moments of the film, but it feels like it happens in such a small segment that you forget about it by the end of the movie. Also, it doesn’t have any impact on the film outside of that scene, but it feels like it should. Those were the only nitpicks I could muster, and otherwise, I found this movie to be a great movie experience.
Although hindered by a cliché story, Southpaw manages to be one of the best films to come out in the 2015 summer season. The great selection of both primary and supporting cast members lead to some tear jerking moments, a couple of chuckles, and an excellent execution of the plot. You are almost guaranteed to find yourself on the verge of tears, and you’ll also finding yourself wanting to stand up and cheer at the appropriate moments. If you’re into sports movies, tear jerkers, or drama movies, Southpaw is easily a must-see for you.