Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Curtis Jackson, Naomie Harris
Released: 24th July 2015 (UK/USA)
It’s been almost five years since David O’Russell’s ‘The Fighter’ was released and while Christian Bale and Melissa Leo polish their Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars, there’s someone else who had been tipped to have his eyes on the main prize.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Billy Hope, a champion Boxer who epitomises the rags-to-riches story as he, along with his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) was raised in an orphanage and now lives the good life. However, following a series of tragic events, Billy’s life is turned upside down and, unable to cope both mentally and financially with everything that has happened, Billy loses his home and the custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). Trained by Tick (Forest Whitaker) Billy is set on winning back his title, but more importantly his life.
The film takes on the gritty feel of Director Antoine Fuqua’s previous work and for a man who has films such as ‘Training Day’ and ‘Shooter’ in his back catalogue, this is in by no means a bad thing. As far as clichés go, Southpaw doesn’t intentionally steer clear of them, but rather attempts it’s own take on time-old story-telling. The result is interesting, with Cinematographer Mauro Fiore opting for a broadcast-style coverage of the fight scenes, rather than taking inspiration from the likes of Rocky and Raging Bull. It works though and the audience can really share in the action as we experience the blows alongside Billy.
Unlike The Fighter, Southpaw lacks the same character development and relationship amongst the main cast and as such, loses the connection with the audience at certain stages. The storytelling is nothing new and it relies quite heavily on age-old aspects in an attempt to connect with its viewers. It’s hard to explain these aspects without giving away too much of the main story however, the occasional swing and a miss is fine and it’s quickly forgiven in the overall picture.
The supporting cast is made up from the likes of Curtis Jackson a.k.a 50 Cent, whose character, Billy’s former manager Jordan Mains, is as shady from the offset as 50 Cent’s accountant is in real life. However, this means that Mains misses the mark completely as he’s clearly out for himself from the offset, pre-empting one of the films main conflicts of character from the beginning. Skyfall Alumni Naomie Harris is also criminally underused as Leila’s care worker, Angela.
Gyllenhaal’s performance serves as a timely reminder to those who doubt his acting abilities, but it’s perhaps too early to see how Gyllenhaal will fare in the apparent Oscar-bid that ‘Southpaw’ had been reportedly eyeing up. The potential competition looks to be as high as ever, but then again if Meryl Streep can be nominated for her role in ‘Into The Woods’ anything is possible.
Southpaw is one of 2015’s better films, saved from a tired story by strong direction, great editing and cinematography, while the performance from Gyllenhaal will earn him a number of plaudits. While it’s thoroughly enjoyable throughout, it never quite lands the knockout blow (It’s a boxing movie, it has to end like that)