Release: 23rd November 2015
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), the reigning junior middleweight boxing champion, has an impressive career, a loving wife and daughter, and a lavish lifestyle. However, when tragedy strikes, Billy hits rock bottom, losing his family, his house and his manager. He soon finds an unlikely savior in Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a former fighter who trains the city’s toughest amateur boxers. With his future on the line, Hope fights to reclaim the trust of those he loves the most.
Antoine Fuqua likes blowing things up and Kurt Sutter enjoys putting people through hell. So it’s a wonder that Southpaw doesn’t have more angst or adrenaline to it. The resulting ‘boxing drama’ is a run of the mill story of riches to rags, and back again. Imagine a distilled Kramer vs Kramer meets Fat City.
Early publicity shots of Jake Gyllenhaal made a big fuss about the physicality of his character, and this plays heavily into the final performance. His Billy Hope feels like a hammer swinging and thrashing his way though life. Sutter (cleverly?) substitutes in ring bouts for the one-two knockout of life. Billy spends most of the movie outside the ring fighting for survival rather than slogging his guts out in the squared circle; it’s all very discreet…not.
Southpaw’s big problem is that it tries so hard to be something else. It spends so much time trying to avoid being a boxing movie, without making any efforts to avoid the clichés. There isn’t a single scene or moment of dialogue in the whole film which feels fresh. The offset of this is that it becomes detrimental to the overall emotional arc. Thankfully this is salvaged by Gyllenhaal and Oona Laurence, who try their hardest to bring some credibility to a story which could quite easily find a home on TV channels like Real Lives.
Fuqua has proved himself time and again as a competent hand, and his treatment of the films few ‘action’ scenes are deft. Southpaw feels legendary in the ring, but outside of it things are as far from the joys of rival pictures such as The Fighter. This is a film which wants to be in league with Raging Bull, but that is the difference between dogs and wolves. And Southpaw really is just a mangy mutt howling at the moon.
Film Grade: C
Special features not available at time of going to press. But they include;
–Southpaw: Inside the Ring
–Q&A with Cast
–Extended Training Montage