RSS

Tag Archives: southpaw

Movie Breakdown: Southpaw (Noah)

July 23, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

Jake Gyllenhaal looks like a piece of thugged out granite in the trailers for this film and that Eminem track makes me want throw on my hoodie and punch some bags. I’d say that’s a pretty good impression.

The Reality:

Southpaw is, very much, your typical sports film filtered through the visual aesthetic and grit-infused mind of Antoine Fuqua (he of Training Day fame). It finds famed boxer Billy “The Great” Hope (Mr. Gyllenhaal, all muscles and tats) at the top of his game, beating up fools, taking hits in the cabeza and generally being every ounce of the toughened sports cliche we all love to love. Bad things happen though and in a sequence so drawn out and depressing I internally begged for beautiful shot boxing (which the film has plenty) to occur, Hope loses, well, everything – his wife, his daughter, his money, his friends and even his fleet of black cars with vanity license plates. As you can guess, the rest of the film follows Mr. Hope as, with the help of toughened trainer Tic Willis (Forrest Whitaker), he redeems himself as both a boxer and person. It’s nothing new, but in the hands of Antoine Fuqua it is, for the most part, one part tear-jerking tale of redemption/one part street-tough-boxing-film filmed in severe closeups with a heavy dose of gouting eye blood and slo-mo sweat droplets. Gyllenhaal manages to transform his foster-kid-turned-boxing-champion into a tightly wound hulk of man, broken by tragedy, and unable to find his way back. It’s another fine turn for Gyllenhaal, and if his punch-beaten face doesn’t pop up at the Oscars, I’d be surprised. I personally found Forrest Whitaker’s portrayal of a former boxer turned trainer turned less successful trainer the shining highlight of the film. Whitaker, his eye a cloudy remembrance of punches past, gives his character the sort of nuance and roundness one doesn’t often attribute to a sports film. His mumbly patois (there’s a lot of mumbling in this flick) and quick temper give Willis an indelible heart of gold, surround by the rough exterior of a man broken and redeemed. I found the boxing, the boxing training and well, anything that had anything to do with boxing to be superb in this film, but found my attention lagging as Fuqua takes Hope through the rigamarole of New York’s Child Protective Services. Clearly, this a film about overcoming the worst parts of yourself and living a better life, but this is not Fuqua’s strong point as a director and for every moment Gyllenhaal tried to convince his daughter to love him again, I wished for another boxing scene. But hey, if I have to trade earnest emotional outpouring for scene after scene of beautiful boxing, well, it’s a sacrifice worth making.

The Lesson:

Not every sports film needs a gooey center. Sometimes I just want to watch people hit each other until their eyes explode. And in this film, sometimes that happens.

Continue reading...

Movie Breakdown: Southpaw

July 22, 2015

0 Comments

The Impression:

BELIEVE IN HOPE.  Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal and looks like an overly dramatic sports flick.  I’m in.

The Reality:

I very much enjoyed Southpaw, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t essentially just a raw re-imagining of various moments from the Rocky series.  Boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) was once on top of the world, but the tragic loss of his wife (Rachel McAdams), a forced separation from his daughter, and his financial ruin have pushed him all the way back to square one.  Now it’s time to get back to the basics with a tough new trainer (Forest Whitaker) so that he can reclaim what has been taken from him.  Some of that, unless you haven’t seen a Rocky film, should sound fairly familiar, and it shouldn’t require much effort to guess which path Southpaw travels down and where it ultimately ends up.  The film is, and the pun is totally intended here, a full-on telegraphed punch.  Thankfully though, the lack of originality doesn’t keep it from being an entertaining movie.  Director Antoine Fuqua seems to be a legit boxing fan, and his treatment of the sport (the training, the actual fights) gives the film an underlying stream of enthusiasm.  Then there’s Gyllenhaal, who clearly poured his all into the mumbly, punch drunk Hope, and his performance in and out of the ring is transfixing.  In other words, while the film doesn’t do anything new, it seems to have largely been made by people who clearly love their characters, the story of Billy Hope’s redemption and the actual sport of boxing.  I can appreciate that.

If you’re a sports fan, I think you’ll really like the drama and energy that’s packed into Southpaw.  If you’re not, you may still find it entertaining, but I wouldn’t expect to be blown away.

PS – Forest Whitaker is such a great actor that he could have put on a bad wig and also played 50 Cent’s part, and it would have been 200% better than 50 Cent’s flat as hell performance.  Just saying.

The Lesson:

Jake Gyllenhaal has now more than redeemed himself for doing Prince of Persia.

Continue reading...