Southpaw

 

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Boxing drama – powered by a magnificent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal – that addresses what it means to be a father and a breadwinner, in and out of the ring.

 

Anger can only take you so far. For Billy Hope, the undefeated World Light Heavyweight champion, anger has propelled him from a string of foster homes to the top of the boxing profession. He is a superstar, with the lifestyle to go with it: a luxurious mansion, an attractive and adoring wife and a daughter he dotes on. But to keep his title – and the life he has become accustomed to – anger alone will not keep him on the throne…

 

Southpaw

Body heat: Jake Gyllenhaal

 

While Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw is essentially a clichéd thing, it is not Rocky. Because you can’t smell the clichés. Fuqua has established his reputation with films like Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer, and we know he can deliver the drama. But here the performances are just that much better, with nary a false note. As Billy Hope, Jake Gyllenhaal has transformed himself into a driven, inarticulate mountain of muscle. Yet behind the glory and the rage he is a loving family man who cannot make a move without the nod from his wife, Maureen, played with steely self-assurance by Rachel McAdams. There’s also a wonderfully wise and wary performance from Forest Whitaker as an inner-city trainer, reminding us what an undervalued actor he remains. Even Billy and Maureen’s young daughter, Leila, is portrayed with astonishing maturity and credibility by an actress – Oona Laurence – who we are likely to be seeing a lot more of, while Naomie Harris registers strongly and convincingly as an empathetic social worker. With acting like this, the formula melts away to make room for an intense, bruising and ultimately moving drama about what it means to be a father and a breadwinner. And in the hands of Fuqua's muscular and gritty direction, the film’s predictability only really sinks in after the closing credits.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON            

 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson, Oona Laurence, Rita Ora.

 

Dir Antoine Fuqua, Pro Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Peter Riche, Alan Riche, Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Ye, Screenplay Kurt Sutter, Ph Mauro Fiore, Pro Des Derek R. Hill, Ed John Refoua, Music James Horner, Costumes David C. Robinson.

 

WanDa Pictures/Riche Productions/Escape Artists/Fuqua Films-Entertainment Film Distributors.

123 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 24 July 2015. Cert. 15.