Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Film Review: Southpaw (2015)

Southpaw (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Blu-ray
Netflix Instant: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I won't pretend like the story is original, it doesn't actually break any ground, but that doesn't take away from its impact."

After a fatal incident sends him on a destructive path, a champion boxer fights to get his daughter back from child protective services as well as rebuild his career.

Southpaw follows Billy "The Great" Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), an undefeated champion boxer with anger issues. He's the type to punch first and ask questions later. After another victory, Billy is taunted by up-and-coming boxer Miguel "Magic" Escobar. Billy's wife, Maureen, is able to stop Billy from escalating the feud while convincing him to retire. However, during a charity event, Billy and Maureen bump heads with Escobar and his crew once again. This time, the confrontation leads to tragedy. Depressed and angry, Billy begins to follow a self-destructive path that leads to his daughter's removal from his life by child protective services. In order to get his daughter back, Billy must fight his inner-demons while fighting his way back to the top. It leads to a great climax and an abrupt but solid ending.

Southpaw is a great sports drama. The first act of the plot is a little disjointed, jumping from scene-to-scene without a consistent flow, but it eventually straightens itself out. The rest of the plot follows a fairly traditional (i.e. familiar) story: the tale of a champion's resurgence after tragedy. I won't pretend like the story is original, it doesn't actually break any ground, but that doesn't take away from its impact. Thanks to its well-developed characters and their compelling relationships, Southpaw hits hard on an emotional level. It really was a moving experience. And, like all great sports dramas, it was a motivational movie. There's nothing like a good boxing flick—and some great training montages—to get you pumped. The boxing was also great. I'm no boxer, but the choreography looked good.

Jake Gyllenhaal showcases his versatility with this role. He perfectly filled the shoes of this troubled character, delivering a great range of emotion. Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams also offered great supporting roles. The film was shot well. I liked the cinematography, the camerawork, and the editing. The music was also great. However, if you're not a fan of hip-hop, you might be turned off by the soundtrack. The film was written by Kurt Sutter and directed by Antoine Fuqua. Sutter offers some interesting plot points, like the fight for Billy's daughter, but his writing is ultimately derivative. Fortunately, the story is timeless and Fuqua's direction is strong.

Overall, Southpaw is a great film. It is a powerful, entertaining, and even motivational sports drama—it checks all of the boxes. It's not a film that oozes originality, but it is a well-made movie. If you're a fan of movies like Rocky, Creed, or Raging Bull, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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