Really quick I want to thank AMC Theaters for giving me and other AMC Stubs members the chance to see "Southpaw" a few days early. That's how I got to see this movie and review it tonight (and for free no less) so credit where credit is due. Not sponsored or anything; just wanted to say thanks.
"Southpaw" is the latest boxing drama which stars Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role. Gyllenhaal continues to amaze me every time he is on the screen. The various kinds of roles he is able to produce is outstanding and something which is worth looking out for. He continues to impress with "Southpaw." As a boxer who's world is crumbling around him, Gyllenhaal is able to showcase real anger and believable sadness, and even recklessness, which only helps to draw the audience in even further.
On his road to redemption, Gyllenhaal ends up training with Forest Witaker, a retired professional coach who trains under-privileged kids. The chemistry between these two actors works really well and Witaker pulls off a great performance. While not a lot about his character is talked about, you can tell that the man has a lot of history behind him simply by his demeanor. It's fun to see their relationship evolve throughout the film as each man transforms the other in one way or another.
What really makes this film stand out though is that the focus is not strictly on Gyllenhaal winning back his title. While it is the ultimate goal, the real focus is on Gyllenhaal himself and how the character deals with going from the prime of his life to the lowest he has ever been. This look into the character in regards to his choices and his motivations really proved to be intriguing and kept me engaged in the film even during its slower sections since it focused so much on that aspect of the film. I like that they showed his internal conflict and how the events which occurred outside of the ring directly impacted his performance inside of it. Now, this could just be standard protocol for boxing movies these days (I don't watch a ton of them), but this aspect and unique take on a redemption story worked nicely.
The main thing which kind of bugged me was the daughter, played by Oona Lawrence. She's fine as far as child actors go, but there's a point in which she is in the hands of child services and Gyllenhaal visits her multiple times. Sometimes she will be bratty and not want to see him, or when she does, she'll treat him like crap and say that she hates him and wishes he was dead. Then other times, she'll ask when she can leave with him. It just seemed very back and forth in regards to the responses of the child with nothing which is done to really resolve her anger at her father. If we'd seen some scenes dealing with this, it might have worked better and more fluidly.
As usual, I must applaud the choreography of these films. Whether its dance or fighting, a lot of time and energy goes into making those scenes look realistic and the fights in this film do just that. I would have easily bought the idea that Gyllenhaal was a boxer by his fighting style, just as much as I'd buy that Channing Tatum can pull off those "Magic Mike" dance moves on the spot. The fights themselves are also fun to watch. The opening one is enjoyable since we see Gyllenhaal in his prime and winning his match, while the closing fight builds up suspense nicely, leaving the audience guessing as to who would come out on top.
"Southpaw" was a film I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I did. I thought it'd be an okay fighting movie, but the way that the film took a basic redemption story and focused on the character's struggle worked to great effect and left me satisfied for the entirety of the film. Check it out this weekend if you have the chance.
But those are just my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!
Video review of "Southpaw" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl3UkZ85aIk