Cinematic Releases: Southpaw - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

Southpaw is out this Thursday night. Check out our review. 

"Did you just make a
Brokeback joke? Yeah, didn't think so."
There's an unspoken standard in the film industry to want the little guy to win. Audiences want them to power through hardships with a meaner gleam in their eye, and to reclaim what was once theirs with all their predominately visceral charm that only a man slightly lesser of a God can possess.  But, wait a second.  What if the guy is actually incredibly unlikable?  What's the audience going to boastfully clap at once our little guy claws his way back to the ring?  

The essential elements to a good, gut-wrenching story go way beyond the lines and delicate script work of the story and extend to the passion created and sustained by the actors that carry them out.  And for a film so susceptible to falling so deep within the typical boxing movie tropes, Southpaw does a beautiful job of avoiding it. With a rousing, stand out performance from Forest Whitaker and Jake Gyllenhaal almost out doing his Nightcrawler role, Southpaw comes out swinging with a heart tugging tale that bears one question. Can these two ever top what they're doing here? Whitaker once again redefines himself as an actor's actor while the always changing Gyllenhaal takes on the eye splitting brutality of a deeply moving characterization. 

Southpaw follows the best-worst little guy ever, Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and the fact that he can't just seem to get back up after he's knocked down. He's a heartbeat away from internal combustion but you really wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at him. Gyllenhaal delivers a firm and encapsulating performance with absolutely no doubts behind his personally detrimental motives. He's a big guy, but still the textbook example of what a father should be, and just doesn't know how big he is until he falls. The fall isn't what Southpaw is about, but rather the painful journey of getting back up on your feet. The supporting cast (a majority of which I would be shocked if they weren't given Oscar nods) methodically shifts from character to character but leaves no raw emotion out, either – bringing as much as you'd expect from your lead man.

"Nope. I did not hear your
last album. Wanna fight about it?
Yeah, didn't think so."

Overall, the gritty realism is present in every single scene. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson delivers as a “in it for the money” guy but is generally counter productive in hard-nosed consistency. Mr. Whitaker brings it as the crabby, worn out trainer. And Oona Laurence as Leila Hope melts hearts at every turn. For such a young actress, she has a distinctive talent that far outweighs her years. Between his presentation of  realistic misery and often times desperate portrayal as a father lost, Jake still maintains his current trend towards becoming the best actor of our generation. With Antoine Fuqua at the helm, Southpaw does exactly what a good boxing movie should do. It breaks faces, throws hard punches to the chest, and sucks bloodied audience members into a semi-realistic movie about giving it everything you've got. 

Their dialogue at times is opaque, showing these characters couldn't stand on their own two legs if survival depended on it. A powerhouse of low-blows are rivaled by the need and want for this guy to succeed, because if anything, all of that pain couldn't be justified to be thrown onto a person. The small gaps that were intentionally left open are sewn together to give the viewer a chance to grant Billy Hope a second, third, and fourth chance. Southpaw definitely hinges on some textbook sports movie moments but ultimately comes out the champ with a story about perseverance and the importance of family. 

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-Sarah Shafer