Southpaw - Cinema Review

'As blunt and uninspired as the double meaning in the surname of Gyllenhaal's character Billy Hope'.

Initially at least, Southpaw seems to be an excellent opportunity for leading man Jake Gyllenhaal to impressively showcase his transformative abilities whilst adding yet another distinctive role to his filmography. Sadly, Antoine Fuqua's boxing drama soon proves itself to be as blunt and uninspired as the double meaning in the surname of Gyllenhaal's character Billy Hope - which, incidentally, is something the director hamfistedly milks at various points throughout.

In fairness to Gyllenhaal, his performance is consistently the best thing about Southpaw. Even in a disappointing film such as this, the actor still manages to create some satisfying moments throughout. Whilst Billy is far from original and sorely lacking in any genuine depth, what impressive elements are to be found within the character are all down to Gyllenhaal and nobody else. What he must contend with throughout is Fuqua's unimpressive direction and Kurt Sutter's clunky, cliché-ridden script. Neither director nor writer is bothered with offering either subtlety or shades of emotion, instead delivering the schmaltz and melodrama in spadefuls at every opportunity.

As underdeveloped as he is, Billy is the best character on offer within a cast of one-dimensional, hackneyed figures. More seasoned performers such as Forest Whitaker and Naomie Harris can be relied upon to make sure their formulaic roles - a boxing trainer and child protective services officer respectively - aren't entirely boring. Oona Laurence as Billy's daughter Leila, however, is unfairly given scarce opportunities to shine despite a handful of moments suggesting her being a promising young actress. At the bottom end of the scale are Rachel McAdams, who consistently fails to impress; and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who is so bad he barely seems aware that he's supposed to be acting.

Southpaw's plot offers a familiar riches-to-rags-then-back-to-riches story that, by 2015, has been done to death in the sports subgenre. This is basically a half-arsed rewrite of Rocky III. The beats within the narrative can all be predicted, and anything that could potentially be developed into something interesting or different is pursued in only a rudimentary way, if at all. The clichés are all present and correct: the arrogant champ falling hard, needing to change and learn something along his way back up to the top; the hard-nosed moralistic mentor who "tells it like it is". Mentioning the fact that there is more than one montage in Fuqua's film almost feels redundant at this point.

Considering the potential this film once appeared to hold, that the end product is such a let-down sadly makes Southpaw one of the biggest disappointments of the year. The only factor worth your time here is Gyllenhaal; bearing in mind his next chameleon-like performance will no doubt be along to impress again soon enough based on the actor's current form, there is little reason to seek out Fuqua's film at all.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent boxing movie, or even a standalone drama. Solid, believable characters. They really outdid themselves when focusing on the boxing content, which is obviously appropriate. The POV shots on a home theater system absolutely make you feel like you are getting hit. The counter right was epic. The only thing missing from the standard boxing theme is the training. You have to demonstrate the epic proportions someone goes through to train for a title fight.