Cinema: Southpaw (2015)
All these films are not just about a sport, they are about struggle; overcoming the odds and inspiring your fellow man (or woman) to achieve more.
This year another boxing film came out called Southpaw and it’s absolutely brilliant.
Billy Hope is a light Heavyweight at the top of his game, undefeated and living the high life with his wife Maureen and daughter Leila. When Billy is challenged by an up-and-coming fighter his life takes a tragic turn when his wife is suddenly murdered. Billy’s downward spiral of depression and substance abuse gets worse and the subsequent court ordered loss of his daughter leads him to try and rebuild his life under the guidance of legendary boxing trainer Tick Wills.
What makes Southpaw a real contender is the weight of the performances and the watertight direction. Working from a script by Kurt Sutter (the mind behind Sons of Anarchy) director Antoine Fuqua crafts a really great boxing film to add to the cannon. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is the linchpin here; his body carved from stone as he has, once again, gone all method and put on a LOT of muscle to play Billy Hope. He is one fight shy of becoming punch drunk and plays it to perfection. He creaks like an old door getting out of bed, his body battered from fighting. Without the women in his life around him Billy Hope is a shell of a man, unable to deal with tragedy and loses total control of his priorities. It’s an excellent performance and it could land Gyllenhaal with an Oscar nod. Rachel McAdams is Maureen Hope, Billy’s wife and decision maker; she is solid, as is Forrest Whitaker who plays Tick Willis. The real surprise for me was Oona Laurence as Leila Hope, Billy’s daughter, whose character arc is the most important in the story; she goes from being a kept little girl to play an almost motherly role in Billy’s life. She actually made me cry at one point, a stunning performance from a 13 year old girl.The Fight scenes are brutal and inventive, shot with lots of POV so you really feel the punches connecting.
The soundtrack is hip hop heavy and really covers the film well, especially Frank Ocean’s tender ‘Wise Man’ which kicks in just at the right moment. Fuqua deserves a special mention also, I never miss a film he is attached to, and he is such a consistent a film maker.
At the heart of Southpaw is the same formula that makes a boxing film what it is but this subgenre will never get old, as stories about men struggling with pride and ego will always be relatable the world over. It maybe not as good as Raging Bull or The Fighter but it is better than it should be by a long stretch. I loved it.
Review by Ramrod (co-host of 60 Minutes With)