Monday, July 27, 2015

[Review] Southpaw

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a dedicated performance in this otherwise typical entry into the world of boxing films.

The heavy-handedly named Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is a Light Heavyweight champ with a temper. His wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is clearly worried by his bloody, head-rocking profession and his capability of being there for their daughter. Quite the melodramatic event occurs when Billy gets into an out-of-the-ring scuffle with another boxer that wants to challenge him. And in turn, a posse member pulls out a gun and Maureen gets shot and killed. From here on, Billy battles with grief, finances, custody of his daughter, and competitors in the ring.

Scene after scene of melodrama, and Billy beating himself up in multiple ways--gets a bit tiring. In fact, my face got sore just from watching this thing. The stumbling narrative structure renders the pacing clunky and winded throughout. So, the story lacks a lot of the spirited momentum that you'd want from a boxing film, and the low points lull too much to be fully engaging. It all seems to be confused about what it wants to be. There are a lot of different threads, subplots, and ideas crammed into the script, but the film never fully develops any of them.

On the bright side, the look of the boxing sequences are pretty legitimate (actual HBO Boxing camera operators were used to capture them), so that's a nice touch. They're also aided by Gyllenhaal's relentless training for the role. As you know, he's been on a streak of some stellar performances, and he keeps it up in Southpaw. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can't keep up with him.


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