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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Southpaw | Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

Southpaw

A great actor is defined as someone who is not afraid to stretch their acting muscles and take on roles in which they completely disappear into a character.  Over the course of his career, Jake Gyllenhaal has proven to fit the bill, as one of the best, most versatile actors of his generation with a diverse film resume that includes extraordinary performances in “Enemy,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Zodiac,” “End of Watch,” “Source Code,” “Prisoners,” and last year's “Nightcrawler” for which he was robbed of an Oscar nomination.

This time, Gyllenhaal tackles a physically and emotionally demanding role that had him enduring five months of vigorous training in preparation for his transformation into a prizefighter. It all paid off with the beefed up actor gaining thirty pounds of ripped muscles and applying all the boxing skills he learned to make it in the ring.

Under the capable direction of Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) working from a screenplay by Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, a product of New York's Hell's Kitchen and an orphan, who rose to fame as the undisputed lightweight champion of the world. He appears to have it all, a beautiful, loving wife, Maureen (an impressive, strong performance by Rachel McAdams), an adorable eleven year old daughter named Leila (Tony award winner for Matilda, Oona Laurence), and a lavish lifestyle that includes a palatial home, expensive cars, and anything money can buy.

Everything changes when tragedy strikes, and he loses it all, his career, wealth, his mansion and worst of all, his daughter, who is taken away and put into foster care after he falls pieces and begins a downward spiral of self destructive behavior. Faced with his biggest challenge yet, Billy must overcome his grief, let go of his anger and pain, and fight an upward battle to regain his career, and prove to the court that he is responsible before he can get his daughter back.

That entails convincing reluctant former boxer turned gym owner and boxing coach Tick Willis (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker), to train, guide him and become his savior, setting the stage for a professional as well as personal comeback and redemption.

Representing the corrupt side of boxing, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, portrays Billy’s flashy, longtime manager/promoter Jordan Mains, an unscrupulous fellow who doesn't think twice about turning his back on Billy and dropping him like a hot potato for greener (as in money making) pastures.

As far as boxing movies, Southpaw follows the usual tried and true, formula, featuring cliches and familiar elements we've seen in movies such as The Champ, Rocky, and Raging Bull, just to name a few in this genre.  The boxing scenes shot by Mauro Fiore and edited by John Refoua, are powerful, gritty, and beautifully orchestrated.  But, all in all, there are no surprises, leading up to a predictable, sappy ending.
 
What stands out is Jake Gyllenhaal's totally convincing, electrifying performance in which he packs a strong punch in and out of the ring. Ultimately, he is the draw that makes Southpaw worth seeing.

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