I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
A quick note about this film before we begin. This was the last film to have its music composed by James Horner before his recent untimely death. My first praise for this movie goes to this score which is subtle and deeply moving in an excellent contrast to the rap music used in more intense scenes. Congratulations to him.
Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a light-heavyweight boxer on top of his game until one tragic event brings truth to the old adage that “what goes up must come down”.
First of all, let me tell you that I love boxing movies. I think that there is no sport that lends itself to filmmaking better than boxing. Its rules are simple, there’s a clear conflict, there are parallels one can make between the sport and our own lives and a number of them are actually really good.
Southpaw is one of the good ones.
A lot of that is down the often underrated talent of Mr Gyllenhaal. My goodness, this guy can be intense. The work that he can do in and out of the ring, working under injury make-up and with the history of his character brings us an astonishing turn from the man. Even when he sits still having his gloves put on, he appears solid and cinematic.
A special praise must be given to Oona Lawrence who plays the boxer’s daughter who delivers a very nice performance.
Unsurprisingly, Forrest Whitaker in his small role, which I won’t give away, is also superb. All actors have movies of fluctuating quality and here I’m glad I see Forrest in Southpaw rather than Tak3n. (Yes, I still call it Tak3n, because that’s what it says on the poster.)
I will also give credit to the writing of this story. I won’t give anything away, but there are some pretty major details that I did not see coming. I avoid trailers for most part like the plague and that let me go into this movie expecting one reasonably good thing and getting something original and heart-breaking.
I talk a lot about film formulae in these reviews, but forgive me if I go through yet another Hollywood trend. We are all familiar with the boxing movie formula. The protagonist has to box his/her (generally his) way to the top, probably after having been at the top, while sorting out issues in his own life.
The number of times we’ve seen this formula you’d think we were sick of it. Heck, by the end of this year, with The Rocky series, the upcoming Creed movie and Grudge Match, Sylvester Stallone will have had nine boxing movies to his belt.
Here, the writing dips in and out of the boxing formula just enough for somebody to be able to use that word to describe it that is so often misused; “original”.
There are parts of this film you will be able to see coming and are typically Hollywoody (for goodness sake the protagonist’s name is Billy Hope), but the way it gets around to them means that I have no reason for complaining. For the most part these sections, while a little clichéd, are often extremely satisfying.
Overall, is this the best boxing movie ever? No, but it is an excellent drama about a man whose life falls apart. Boxing still holds the belt for being the best sport for filmmaking.
Recommended Scenario: If you want an intense father-daughter drama interspersed with intense smash ups of one of America’s finest young actors.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.