Believe in Hope.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Olympus Has Fallen), Southpaw is property of The Weinstein Company so could be an awards contender. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Prisoners), Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Midnight in Paris), Oona Laurence and Forest Whitaker (Platoon, The Last King of Scotland). "Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services". So is Southpaw an awards contender, or will it be drowned out by fierce competition from September onwards?
You may have noticed that in my recent reviews of Paper Towns & Hot Pursuit, I have started the review by saying how I was worried about each film but was pleasantly surprised. Well, its the same story for Southpaw as it was truly an extremely pleasant surprise. I was never really looking forward to Southpaw and wasn't actually planning on seeing it - I like Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and was blown away by his performance in Nightcrawler but that was the only selling factor for me. I felt like the trailer revealed every single plot point possible and it just doesn't seem like my type of film. On top of this, the reviews came in and they were mixed which gave me an even bigger reason not to go. However, I heard good things about it from people online so I went and watched it and I'm very pleased that I did - Southpaw unfortunately probably will be drowned out by flicks like Joy, Suffragette and The Revenant for awards season but that doesn't stop it from being a refreshing film to watch during a summer filled with popcorn flicks.
I do have a few minor problems with the film. One of them is that the trailer did reveal all major plot points which left the film plotless - it was literally just like watching Hope's journey - there was no big build up - anyone would be able to guess that there would be a big fight at the end but that was about it - there wasn't really a plot at all - it was more of a revival film. Another problem I had with the film was that McAdams' performance was a little weak which led to her character not receiving a lot of emotion from the audience that was intended. I feel a little more time could have been spent developing the couples relationship which would have really made that fatal moment so sad to watch. I also thought that the character played by Naomi Harris needed to be developed a little more - after time disliking Hope, she all of a sudden got dressed up and cheered him on in his big fight - this made me wonder whether she was a potential love interest or was just excited to get out of work? My final issue is that the film is extremely long - I feel like parts of it could have been cut down with a montage or cut out all together.
I really liked the use of music in the film - I thought the montage sequence where 'Phenomenal' by Eminem played was a stand out scene - I thought it was really well done and matched perfectly to what was occurring on screen. I thought the rest of the score was very good and matched the film's target audience very well.
One thing that this film did have was a magnificent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal - he was fantastic! This is probably the best I have seen him. This film establishes his diversity as an actor - he is almost unrecognisable from his character in Nightcrawler. I was blown away by his performance. Gyllenhaal actually convinced me that he was actually a boxer - he was just brilliant - I can't express that enough. I just hope that he gets some sort of recognition when it comes to awards season! Other than McAdams, the supporting cast also did a good job. I was very impressed by Oona Laurance who, despite not having much experience, was absolutely fantastic and definitely believable. Forest Whitaker also put on a solid performance.
I actually found Southpaw extremely inspirational - it was moving at some points - the end fight especially - you are routing for Hope because no only is he fighting for his revival but he is fighting for his dead wife and his daughter! This made the audience route for him even more.
Southpaw is also edited pretty well and includes some artistic shots which help to stop it from being your typical sports film. What I will say though is that when the fights were taking place, it felt like I was just streaming an actual fight - it was really well done which made it feel extremely believable.
Southpaw has a few flaws such as a lack of story, not being as emotional as it tries and being overlong. However, all of this is nearly overruled by a magnificent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal which in my opinion is Oscar nominee worthy. Southpaw is scored well and is very believable. The target audience won't be disappointed but neither would your average movie goer. Southpaw is an inspirational journey and is something you should see.