As a boxing film, SOUTHPAW has a lot of heart. As a drama focusing on a man’s quest to reconnect with his 10-year-old daughter, SOUTHPAW does a great job presenting the various aspects of the sport of boxing in a violent way.
Just as THE FIGHTER was a powerful film for telling the story of the trials and tribulations facing the main character outside the ring from negative influences in his life, SOUTHPAW seeks to get into the mind of our protagonist to watch as he deals with hardship, tragedy, revenge, recovery and the love of family.
THE FIGHTER had two amazing supporting characters who drove the story along, with Melissa Leo and Christian Bale stepping up to portray amazingly complex characters who would seem almost cartoonishly unbelievable if it weren’t for the fact that they were strongly based on actual people. Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams did fine jobs portraying the two main characters of the film, but it wasn’t their performances which carried the movie. Far from it.
SOUTHPAW is quite the opposite.
Jake Gyllenhaal continues to establish himself as an amazing actor. It should come as no surprise that Gyllenhaal took it upon himself to learn the art of boxing for this role, because he pulls off the fight scenes better than most actors have when met with the task. He equally dominates the task of connecting with the audience during the emotional aspects of the film, specifically the relationship with his 10-year-old daughter in the film. Oona Laurence is building a decent resume in her young career and might be part of Supporting Actress Nominee discussions, though her role in the film probably could’ve used an additional signature moment. The emotional bond established very early in the film between Rachel McAdams’ Maureen Hope and her boxing-champion husband helps establish a softer side to the otherwise brash and gritty protagonist.
Forest Whitaker was excellent in his role, providing significantly to the backbone in the second half of the film. The chemistry between Whitaker and Gyllenhaal makes you want to see them succeed in their endeavors because you get pulled in to believe in the causes for which they are fighting.
Perhaps if I was paying better attention to the films on 50 Cent’s resume, I wouldn’t have been pleasantly surprised at his prowess here. I’ll be shocked if he’s in any talks to be a nominee for his role as the protagonist champion’s manager, but Curtis Jackson seemed natural in the role – not like a rapper who’s trying to become an actor.
Though I need to delve into it further, the soundtrack did provide a couple new offerings from EMINEM which were memorably good.
Antoine Fuqua did an excellent job delivering the violent, brutal boxing action. From the training sequences to the innovative on-fighter cameras and the professionally-televised production aspects, it was one of the best boxing films I’ve seen. Lots of that credit needs to go to Gyllenhaal, who is a natural inside the ropes. The dramatic portions hit just as hard as the in-ring content, with “the feels” hitting particularly hard as I put myself, as a father, into the protagonist’s shoes in the scenes with his daughter.
Not entirely sure whether this will get year-end nominations, but it should absolutely be in the discussion for multiple categories.
87 out of 100