Release Date: July 24, 2015
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Kurt Sutter
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Skylan Brooks, Naomie Harris, Victor Ortiz, Beau Knapp, Miguel Gomez, Dominic Colon, Jose Caraballo, Malcolm M. Mays, Aaron Quattrocchi, Lana Young, Danny Henriquez, Patsy-Meck, Vito Grassi
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 123 minutes
Production Company: Escape Artists, Fuqua Films, Riche Productions, WanDa Pictures, The Weinstein Company
Genre: Action, Drama, Sport
With director Antoine Fuqua behind the camera I knew little of what to expect. While Training Day was a cinematic masterpiece, The Equalizer, and Olympus Has Fallen was not. Other than the trailers revealing a crucial plot point, I was still excited for what’s to come. You have a director I respect, teaming up with actors I adore (Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker), so it all seemed like a worthy recipe I was dying to dig into. Of course there are times in films when your expectations don’t pay off, but this time they did. While ‘Southpaw’ is a boxing film, it goes far more beyond that realm. It’s about a character, what’s important to him, and what he’s willing to do to achieve it. That notion alone is commendable. So infuse that with a spectacular performance by main and supporting cast, precise directing, and a superb script, there’s no way in hell you will lose. You might come out on top. You might be the best!
I say the best because Southpaw has potential for stellar nominations. Going back in Oscar history and actually analyzing the beats of this film, it’s still a long shot but not impossible. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it did come back around during Oscar season, and is debated amongst other great films released this year. So for that discussion we’ll just have to wait and see.
In my opinion this film is nearly perfect other than two moments I’ll address later. We meet boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) towards the beginning, and he has everything any man could ask for. His world seems perfect for his type of lifestyle. He has a thriving career, the materials that he needs, and a loving wife and daughter, but the film doesn’t just show it to you in bland fashion. The scenes are slow, but are displayed in stages. We see him in the ring which is what he loves (boxing), the passion that drives him (his daughter), and last but not least his foundation that got him there (his beautiful loving wife). It’s like the first act of the film has three acts in itself to set the stages. Initially I wasn’t aware of the significance, but later revealed itself as clever storytelling. All this is, is a set up for what’s to come which would’ve been BRILLIANT, but the trailers ruined that.
I’ll say it now, Jake Gyllenhaal is a well-known actor, but deserves more credit if not already. His performance here blew me away. He’s fantastic in every film he’s involved in. In Southpaw he has everything he desires and in an instant it’s ripped from his heart. Between his acting and Fuqua’s directing, you’re a part of the horrific terror that he’s going through with every breath. This is a fictitious story, but felt so real. No one should go through what Billy had to. He didn’t deserve it, it was unfair, and the performances that conveyed that point were perfect! Nothing but respect goes to everyone involved in those moments. Another great addition is Gyllenhaal isn’t the only presence with great acting. Surprisingly enough, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson did a stand up job as well. Now at this point I can’t say he can lead a film, but if he’s included as a supporting character and/or side piece, I won’t be disappointed in the least. I’ll actually look forward to what’s to come. Distracted by all the brilliance that has come forth in the film, we get more great additions from Forest Whitaker’s character. I’ll keep this short with him. He’s perfect in every film he’s in including this one!
While the story was great and the acting phenomenal, the core of the success is the puppet master pulling the strings who is director Antoine Fuqua. I don’t know how he does it, but when’s he’s crafting a scene he takes you into the soul of that actor/actress giving you a perspective I didn’t know existed. What’s even more impressive is it takes place more than once in different forms in this film. I really felt like I could see what was beyond the skin of said performance and what made it tick. The relationship between camera, actor, and director was so cohesive. Entertaining to say the least the story was a powerful one, and showed how far one is willing to go to get back on top. It’s motivating. It motivates me. When a film makes you feel like you can do anything that says something. That’s the case with Southpaw.
Southpaw deserves high ranks. My only issue is towards the beginning of the film there was possibly five minutes of boredom. Also the fact that there was no dialogue between the two fighters at the end before the final fight. Other than that I had no other complaints. Everything else was spectacular. One would be crazy to say there’s no enjoyment with Southpaw. I would consider it impossible, but all films are subjective, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If it isn’t obvious enough already, my assessment is this is a must see, that’s worthy of multiple viewings. You have a strong cast with powerful performances, a wonderful story displaying the struggle, the obstacles one must overcome, the power of love, and the motivation it brings forth, all prepared by the talented Antoine Fuqua. I loved this film, and you may too.