Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Oona Laurence, and Rachel McAdams
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
I am by no means a boxing film aficionado, but perhaps my journey into the realm of the Rocky films earlier this year has soured me to any other film outside of Stallone-headed series. Granted, it's not like Balboa's story wasn't filled with clichés, but some of the flicks at least felt well-written with realistic dialog. The same can't be said for Southpaw - a film so riddled with silly words and typical storylines that I couldn't invest myself in what I was seeing despite a decent turn from Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, an undefeated boxer who, after a family tragedy, finds himself spiraling out of control, struggling to make ends meet and unable to keep his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) who is taken away by Child Protective Services.
Southpaw has moments of almost dramatic brilliance -- a pivotal scene involving Billy and his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) as tragedy strikes; ten year-old Leila angrily and heartbreakingly slapping her father -- but they're surrounded by silliness in a script by Kurt Sutter that does his characters no favors. It also doesn't help that director Antoine Fuqua's lensing just can't compare to that of Ryan Coogler's who breathed life and vigor into Creed's boxing scenes while Fuqua's appear generic and bland.
Gyllenhaal is solid here, but he's had better performances in the past few years and that's in part due to the fact that Billy Hope feels like an amalgamation of clichéd roles from other sport films. Forest Whitaker plays Billy's new coach spreading sanctimonious wisdom seemingly culled from self help books every time he opens his mouth. Oona Laurence is a bit of a bright spot as Hope's beleaguered daughter, but she's given some ridiculous scenes towards the film's end that stifle her character's emotional arc. Overall, I really don't have much good to say about Southpaw which admittedly is a bit shocking because I had heard plenty of positive things about it. In this reviewer's opinion, though, it's certainly not even close to being a knock out.
The RyMickey Rating: D+