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Triangle Downtowner Magazine

Movie Review: Southpaw

Jul 24, 2015 10:35PM ● By Davis Johnson
    Every boxing movie nowadays seems to follow the same formula, a prize fighter falls from grace and desperately seeks a shot at redemption. Southpaw follows this same formula and has several boxing clichés, but that does not mean the film should be overlooked. It brings out powerful emotions that everyone can relate to in some way and makes people think about the things that matter most in life.

                                             WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

    It starts off with World Light Heavyweight Champion Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) being punched in the face in the middle of a boxing match. It does not look good for Billy as he is consistently hit by his opponent’s long jabs. Sitting ringside are his beautiful wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and his longtime friend and manager, Jordan Mains (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). In the final moments of the tenth round, Billy lands a devastating blow that ends the fight and gives him the victory. During a post-fight interview, Billy comes under fire by the up and coming Miguel “Magic” Cantu (Miguel Gomez). Miguel throws taunts at Billy in hopes of gaining a match and become the new champ. The taunts take hold and Billy makes it clear that he wants to break Miguel during a private conversation with Jordan. His manager agrees to see what he can do after the next fight.

    Back at home Maureen voices her concern about Billy’s health due to all the injuries he took. She knows that he needs to get hit in order to get fired up, but now he’s taking many more hits than he used to. She’s worried that he’ll be a “punch-drunk” fighter by the end of his career, meaning that he will be unable to speak or move normally due to the build up of hits to the head. Instead of competing, she wants him to quit the next fight and recover for a while. Next day, Jordan tries to convince Billy to sign a three fight contract with a 30 million dollar payout. Maureen thinks it’s a bad idea, and Billy listens to her and says no for the time being.

    The scene shifts to Billy and Maureen trying to leave a charity dinner, only to encounter Miguel. The challenger continues to throw taunts to rile up Billy, even adding his wife into the insults. Billy loses his composure and attacks Miguel and chaos ensues. A gun goes off and Maureen is fatally hit in the stomach. She dies in his arms and Billy’s life quickly deteriorates. He quickly runs out of money, his manager leaves him to represent Miguel, his title is taken from him and he loses custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence).

    After reaching rock bottom, Billy goes to Titus "Tick" Wills (Forest Whitaker) for a job. Billy thinks that Tick can help him get his daughter back and get back on track to have a shot at being a fighter again.

    Even though the movie has its clichés and follows the typical sequence of events for a comeback, the movie manages to be a standout for the audience. Director Antoine Fuqua went above and beyond to help make this movie memorable. To help motivate Gyllenhaal, Antoine would workout and train with him in order to prepare for the film. This is a testament to Antoine’s drive to create a successful film. Gyllenhaal himself took no shortcuts in preparation for his role. The mumbling, pained manner in which he talked makes it easy for the audience to think of a veteran boxer who has been hit in the head too many times. The way in which he trained and ached after each fight showed the mentality that great fighters need to have in order to succeed, and the toll it takes on the human body. Rachel McAdams managed to avoid falling into the stereotypical housewife by providing attitude and charm in her role. The truly outstanding performance was from the very young Oona, who carried herself throughout the film with pure talent that is hard to find in child actors. Southpaw will leave an impression and make you think about what is most important in your life.