Boxing seems to inspire writers to invent stories of
redemption, and that’s what Kurt Sutter has concocted in Southpaw. Bound to attract notice for Jake Gyllenhaal’s
go-for-broke performance, the film is less likely to garner kudos for originality—or
believability. It’s slickly made and never dull, but director Antoine Fuqua displays
the same kind of reckless energy as his protagonist. The effort is wasted on an
illogical screenplay filled with two-dimensional characters.
Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, an undefeated light-heavyweight
champion who seems to have it all: a devoted wife (Rachel McAdams) and daughter
(Oona Laurence), a hard-charging manager (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and a
crew of old friends surrounding him as long as the gravy train is running
smoothly. But early on, the story mercilessly strips him of everything that
matters. Once he hits rock bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. That brings him
to an urban boxing gym run by Forest Whitaker (good as always), whose
tough-love approach and hard-won wisdom help Gyllenhaal put his life back in
Can our hero win back the love and trust of his little girl?
Will a rebound in the boxing ring restore his self-respect, as well as his bank
account? Southpaw leaves little doubt
for us to ponder.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives the leading role everything he’s got,
but the part is so superficial that there are no layers for him to explore, no
colors to reveal as the story progresses.
In a never-ending chain of boxing movies (Golden Boy, Champion, Body and Soul, Rocky,
Raging Bull, et al.) Southpaw is
barely a contender.