Both the director and main actor of Southpaw have had inconsistent careers up to now. Jake Gyllenhaal has somewhat resurrected his in recent years thanks to performances in Nightcrawler, Prisoners and End of Watch.
Director Antoine Fuqua has never managed to match the heights of his 2001 epic Training Day – but Southpaw is a movie that both actor and director can be pleased with.
The film focuses on Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal), reigning junior middleweight boxing champion. Fresh from winning his belt, tragedy strikes when his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is unexpectedly murdered, leading to an all mighty collapse in Billy’s life. As a result he loses is daughter to child protection, his boxing license and his home.
Starting back at the bottom, he seeks the help of trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) to help him turn his life around both inside and outside the ring. Billy faces a number of testing challenges throughout as he fights to get his future back on track.
Undoubtedly, Gyllenhaal lands the hardest punch with his performance. His arduous workouts leading up to the production of the movie have been well documented, and his training certainly paid off. His interpretation of this incredibly damaged and beaten down character comfortably fits in alongside some of his better performances in recent years.
Whitaker also gives an impressive account of strict but loveable trainer Tick as well as Oona Laurence who offers a touching role as Billy’s daughter.
For Fuqua, Southpaw is a movie he can be proud of. The end product is by no means perfect and has come under some criticism for its predictability and unoriginality, but the film is emotionally engaging and interesting enough, resulting in an enjoyable watch.
Perhaps missing a knockout blow but Southpaw certainly packs an entertaining punch thanks to Gyllenhaal in particular.