Once I heard Southpaw was coming out and it starred Jake Gyllenhaal I immediately raised an eyebrow. My first thought: Why Jake Gyllenhaal? They couldn’t find anyone else? Then I read it was directed by Antoine Fuqua and hope was restored immediately. Almost like a confirmation was given: “Oh, well if Antoine Fuqua is ok with it then it must be good.” I would soon find out that not only was he (Gyllenhaal) a perfect fit for this role, but this is now my favorite Gyllenhaal film.
What I love (and I think most viewers will too) is that this isn’t a typical ‘rags to riches’ boxing story. Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a championship boxer that’s on top of the world. With his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) it seemed like life was perfect. But the with Billy was two-fold: At 49-0 he was getting older and the severity of his injuries worsened the more he fought. He hits rock bottom after his wife is killed by someone in a rival boxer’s posse and his friend/manager Jordan Mains (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) leaves him for fighter after a poor performance. He has to sell everything he has to pay bills and ends up moving into a small apartment in a not so posh area of town.
Billy and his wife Maureen grew up in an orphanage together. They fell in love and she supported him throughout his career. Sadly, the one thing he wanted to avoid (his daughter going through the system) eventually happened once he literally lost everything. He had to humble himself and start from scratch while serving a boxing suspension. From World Boxing Champion to local gym custodian, that went the way of Billy Hope.
At this gym he meets Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) who was able to teach him life lessons and provide the occasional laugh as well. The main attraction in the film is Gyllenhaal, as he gives a memorable performance with quick quips of humor, deep emotional exchanges, and shows the many stages of feelings of one that has it all and loses it just that quickly. A rising star is the young Oona Laurence, who gave an excellent performance of a loving, innocent little girl to a daughter who feels betrayed and matures overnight. She’s another one to watch, along with the other 2 ladies on my watch list; Margot Robbie and Nathalie Emmanuel.
I like 50 Cent and he’s continued to impress me across the board. I think he’s going to be typecast as a sneaky character with ulterior motives (like his character on Power) but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. His growth as an actor, I feel, is commensurate with the roles he’s been afforded. I’ve enjoyed watching him crossover from music artist to thespian and hopes one day, he will reach Gyllenhaal acclaim. I normally leave a trailer with my reviews but I feel like they’re a bit misleading and makes the film look cliché riddled when it’s not.
I confidently give Southpaw a 9 out of 10. The trio of Antoine Fuqua, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson hit a knockout with this film. This is a film where you’ll get your moneys worth as all feeling on the emotional scale will be touched.