After watching the trailer for Southpaw, I was super amp’d to see this movie. Boxing; check, a father fighting for his child; check, Jake Gyllenhaal; check (not as big of a man crush as Tom Hardy, but close). But after seeing the movie, I’m just a little bit less excited about it. It’s still a great movie, just not as amazing as I envisioned it to be.
The best way to describe this movie is if Rocky, Se7en and Belly had a baby. That baby’s name would have been Southpaw. This movie starts out as a music video or some kind of flashy intro to a boxing videogame. Then it turns into a touching family and personal drama, seriously scaling back on the pacing. During the final act the movie speeds things back up when the emphasis shifts back to the boxing. And then there is a training montage in there somewhere as well (I’m telling you guys, every movie should have a training montage, lol). This case of noticeable identity crisis ensures that the pacing of this film is all over the place and can really test your attention span.
But the actors are all doing a great job. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the unstable, hot-tempered, loving father, man-child with a troubled past very well. I’m no expert on this, but I think he even appropriated the Ney York accent to his arsenal. Even though I only noticed it during the first act. His character, Billy Hope, reveals more and more character flaws as the movie progresses. This makes his descend to rock bottom somewhat predictable, but not less emotive to watch.
Forest Whitaker also does a great job of fulfilling the Mister Miyagi role. He knows a lot about boxing and he had something bad happen to him in the past. But you never really get to know what his deal is exactly. Too bad, because that could have made him an even more interesting character.
But the best acting performance is delivered by Billy Hope his daughter (Oona Laurence). Even though she doesn’t have a lot of screen time, this little girl conveys all the emotions so well, I was just amazed.
The story is very touching and extremely sad, but nothing too creative. It basically boils down to a man suffering a tragic loss, which leads to a fall from grace and the underdog trying to climb back to the top. But this simple story is perfectly fine in this case, because we all love to cheer for the underdog and see him succeed. Especially if the underdog is a loving (but maybe not extremely capable) father.
And this brings me to the only true criticism that I have for this movie. Since Southpaw is about a father fighting for his child, I expected to be in tears half of the time. I’ve always been a sucker for father/child stories, that stuff just makes me go soft and mushy. It got even worse after I became a father myself. So to my surprise; there was no weeping throughout the movie by yours truly. And this is something I blame the movie for. Even though the story is extremely sad and tragic, the way it is portrayed, just fails to push you over the edge and burst into tears. And to be honest this can be said for the whole movie.
Even though it has great acting and a relatable narrative, it just leaves you wanting for that extra weight and significance. The movie tries hard to evoke all these primal emotions, but it just fails to completely suck you in. It really is a missed opportunity, because this is what could have made this great movie into an amazing movie.
In closing; I still greatly recommend for you to go see Southpaw. Maybe not if you expect this movie to be all about boxing, but if you can appreciate a touching family drama with some boxing sauce, then you should defiantly give this movie a chance.