Movie Review: Southpaw

Posted: July 22, 2015 in Film
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Southpaw was honestly the first dramatic film of the year that I was really looking forward to. I’m a sucker for stories such as these, and with some great talent behind it I was  anxious to see it. On Monday I had gotten an email from AMC Stubs for a free ticket to see an advanced screening last night, so I jumped at the opportunity!

The story follows undefeated boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal). Undefeated that is until his anger gets the best of him and, during the middle of a brawl (outside of the ring,) a rival boxer’s body guard shoots and kills his wife (McAdams.) This drives Hope to an extreme depression, and in the midst of his sorrow the rest of his life begins to crumble around him (you know what they say about glass houses…)
Hope’s daughter is taken away from him by child services (a system that Hope himself was raised in,) and Hope is completely abandoned by most of his “friends.” It’s up to him, with help of  trainer Tick Wills (Whitaker) to pick himself back up from the bottom and become the man he truly needs to be in and outside of the ring.

If the story sounds similar or redundant to past boxing films… that’s because it really kind of is. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before about how a champion becomes an underdog through various happenstances, and then has to rise back to the top to defeat his demons. What sets Southpaw apart from other films like it is how brutal and unflinching it is in terms of emotional and physical brutality. The drama and emotions are truly present within the actors, and the fights are some of the most intense I’ve seen in a while on film.  Seriously, I think the last time that I’ve ever flinched at an onscreen punch was during Bane and Batman’s fight in The Dark Knight Rises. Every single punch is heard and felt by the audience when watching this film.

The emotional connection is really there as well. Gyllenhall not only physically owns this role (I mean… jeeze, just look at him) but he taps into the charter’s feelings the way I’ve come to expect him to be able to do. This character takes us on a ride unlike anything you’d see in a Rocky film. There are moments of this film that you will hate Billy Hope, but obviously there is going to be a redemption point where you start cheering for him again. It’s truly his performance that raises this film above others like it.

McAdam’s does a great job of portraying a worried wife, who really wants her husband to give up the sport while he still can (I.E not “punchdrunk” or worse,) and young Oona Laurence does a phenomenal job as Hope’s daughter who goes through the same roller coaster of love, hate, and love for her father as the audience does. 

As great as this film is there are some finer plot points that I wish had either been elaborated or finished better. One being Tick Wills’ obvious drinking problem. It seems to have no purpose only than to set up a single laugh in the film. From the moment we’re introduced to him he’s very against swearing and drinking (which is not explained at all, but then later he’s revealed to be a Godly man… which I feel would should have been out in the open once we met him and would have explained things better.) But then all of a sudden he’s drinking, like, a lot. It’s a trait never explained, and there isn’t any consequence to this like there is with the characters in the 2011 film Warrior. I felt like it was supposed to, in some way, tie in to a kid’s death later on in the film, and whom Tick feels responsible for- but it never is connected. Also, the kid’s death just felt off, and there was seemingly no consequence to it being done.

And speaking of no consequence… it seems like there are an awful lot of people who knew that Ramone’s bodyguard Hector is the one that killed Billy’s wife. I mean, Billy even finds out where this guy lives. Why is this guys NEVER arrested? Why did nobody ever turn this guy in? Billy’s bodyguard got arrested. This is probably the most infuriating thing that happened in the whole film that was never explained in any way. I was really hoping that, by the end of the film, Ramone or someone from his team would have ousted this guy.

Even with it’s small, somewhat nonsensical flaws Southpaw is a pretty weighty underdog story with some splendid acting and really hardcore fight scenes, It’s a brutal and emotional film, with some real heart backing it up. If you’re in to inspirational stories like Rocky, The Fighter, and Warrior then Southpaw is a film for you.

Southpaw is rated R for language throughout, and some violence

  1. […] saw the three movie battle to the death (death might be a little dramatic) play-out in favor of ‘Southpaw’. It was a great choice by me and the readers because it was great movie with  a, yet another, […]


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