Review: Southpaw Is A Great Character Piece Framed By Boring Boxing Sequences
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Screenwriter: Kurt Sutter
Principal Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, 50 Cent, and Naomie Harris
Summary:Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.
I like to consider myself a sports fan but I have never seen the appeal of professional fighting. I’ve never found it compelling or interesting to watch so I’m always a little leery of movies that feature it as a major plot point. There are things that can keep me engaged in movies, but watching two grown men beat the snot out of each other is not one of them. That is probably the main reason I went into Southpaw with some hesitation. There was a chance that this was going to be yet another movie where the boxing parts of the boxing movie were the worst parts for me to watch.
Southpaw is a gut wrenching character piece that is, unfortunately, brought down by a lot of uncompelling fighting and training montages.
Southpaw is one of those frustrating movies for me to review because there is the marrow of a good movie here. The story of boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), going through grief and having to look at his life in a new angle after the tragic loss of his wife, is great. I love the fact that he doesn’t entirely get along with his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) after he well and truly screws up because it makes his daughter a person and not a prop. A huge plot point for Billy’s character is letting his daughter hate him for awhile so she could heal. That is real stuff, that is how human beings act, and it’s rare that kids are afforded that luxury of seeing real human beings in movies. I like all of these things.
However, the movie tends to drag itself down whenever it decides to focus on Billy’s boxing career. I understand that most people go to boxing movies to see people box, but I felt like they were taking away from the interesting parts of the movie. I didn’t want to watch Billy learn how to fight again or go through a training montage. I wanted to see him interact with his daughter. I wanted to see the two of them slowly deal with the loss in their lives. I wanted a character study and I kept getting a fight. The final fight in the movie felt like it went on forever. I wanted the fight to be over because it was the least interesting and compelling part of the entire movie.
I felt almost bad walking out of Southpaw because it just wasn’t that good of a movie because of those boxing scenes. Jake Gyllenhaal puts his all into this movie and it’s one of his better performances next to last years Nightcrawler. It was jarring for me to think those two characters were played by the same person which says a lot about Gyllenhaal as an actor. It’s a tremendous performance. Oona Laurence, as I said, is one of the better movie kids I’ve seen in a long time. I love that she is afforded time to heal and grieve in her own way. The entire thing is backed by a score from the late James Horner, and director Antoine Fuqua does a good job of directing the entire thing. However, the boxing scenes were just so incredibly dull to me that despite everyone giving their all throughout the entire production they were just boring. But, then again, I did say I am not a fan of boxing.
Southpaw is one of the more jarring movies I’ve seen in a long time. I’d almost say it’s worth going to just for Gyllenhaal’s performance, but the boxing scenes take up such large portions of the movie that I just can’t make myself give a strong recommendation. It is an amazingly well acted character study book ended by unengaging fist fights.