Southpaw [2015]
Southpaw [2015] is a boxing drama from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer).  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, an unlucky boxer who turns to trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.  Depressed yet?  Don’t worry, it still is a sports movie filled with many clichés that have been done to death.  Yet, despite all that, Southpaw still works with its great performances and an emotional story.

It’s a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World. Jeez, just writing that synopsis again was enough to make me go to therapy.  It’s a dark and gritty story, which makes sense considering that Kurt Sutter (creator of Sons of Anarchy) wrote the script.  And boy, does he put Billy Hope through the wringer.  I’m not against depressing stories, settings or characters.  But the problem here is that it’s all one-note; one long, sad, depressing, note.  It slowly becomes a slog that’s about 30 minutes too long.

“I coulda been a contender”.  What makes this movie work are the performances, specifically Jake Gyllenhaal. Harvey Weinstein has already guaranteed an Oscar nomination, and I can see why.  His physical transformation is impressive and he gives an emotional performance that’s enough to make anyone cry.  He’s a terrific actor and one of the best working today.  But this is one of his more conventional roles.  Still great, mind you, but I found his work in Nightcrawler, Prisoners, and even End of Watch to be more compelling.  Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker are also very good and sell their dialogue as best they can.

A mild recommendation What could’ve been a contender ends up being just fine.  Performances are great, and I will admit to being emotionally moved once it all ended.  I just wish there had been more surprises instead of clichés that we’ve seen a thousand times.  But the drama does work, and I guess that’s more important.  See it for Jake Gyllenhaal.  Oh, and the fight scenes are pretty good too.

A solid drama that’s big on Jake Gyllenhaal, but short on surprises.
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