Boxers from Hell's Kitchen always get back up.
Southpaw is a boxing film starring the man, the myth, the legend, Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a lightweight boxer who's life takes a turn for the worse, and in order to fix it, Hope must start over and learn the values of a true boxer and a good person.
Jake Gyllenhaal is phenomenal! He alone was able to elevate this movie to really good quality. Watching Gylenhaal act is like watching the final round of a boxing match between two of the greats (no, not Mayweather vs Pacquiao). He really is so captivating to watch, especially since his role here is a huge departure from his roles in his previous films like Enemy or Nightcrawler. He exceptionally plays the role of an intense, quick-tempered, dull-witted boxer and it's a perfect new addition to his current filmography.
The supporting cast is filled out nicely with the likes of Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, and a few more good actors. McAdams has a memorable presence and she's really talented in getting me to cry over her in movies. Whitaker is good as the mentor of Hope. However, the real champion of the supporting cast is the child actress by the name of Oona Laurence. She's great and is able to prove that she can hold her own in a scene with Gyllenhaal.
The father/daughter relationship and Hope's struggle with loss and depression are definitely the more interesting parts of the screenplay, but it just isn't a knockout. It's pacing is off, as some characters and subplots enter and exit like a jab, and the movie can't quite shake the feel of a "based of a true story" fare we're so used to (and it isn't even a true story).
Antoine Fuqua's directing is disappointing. The boxing fights are fun to watch, but the whole aesthetic of the film is just so standard and unsubtle that it's hard to really appreciate. The film spends a lot of time and energy on emphasizing character points, tone, and themes (one scene literally has characters spelling these things out) and it doesn't really do anything to help the movie. It actually helps you map out the movie's plot points and exact beats in your head, which was quite easy to do. It was easy to identify what would happen to specific characters, what this character would say to the other character during a particular sequence, and other story beats. It shamefully took me out of concentration on the movie and slight brought down the movie as a whole.
Although not as expertly crafted as previous Jake Gyllenhaal-starring films, Southpaw is still worth going into the ring for because of fun boxing fights and another amazing Gyllenhaal performance.