Southpaw

3044397-poster-p-1-the-southpaw-trailer-hits-you-with-a-ridiculously-cut-jake-gyllenhaal-and-new-eminem-musicJake Gyllenhaal plays a boxer who hits a very hard bottom. He’s at the top of the game when the film begins, but when his head and his heart aren’t in it, he very quickly loses everything he has. He barely notices losing the cars, blinks lazily as the contents of his home are removed for auction, tries to be philosophical about the foreclosure of his multi-million dollar home, and contributes in the banishment of friends, and it’s only when they take his daughter that he breaks. His daughter is removed by child services from his custody and is sent to live in the very same system that he grew up in, and suddenly he realizes that he has to mobilize to win her back.

He turns to grizzled, reluctant trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) for help. As a boxer, Billy Hope has spent his life defending punches with is face, but that’s not enough to face down the current competition (who may also be the instrument of his undoing). Tick teaches him a more patient and thoughtful way to fight, which – lo and behold – turns out to be a great metaphor for life too.

I thought Gyllenhaal was fantastic. His performance was all meat and muscle. But the script was limp. Matt and I punched lots of holes into the story while sitting in the parking lot while Sean SOUTHPAWbought dog food, but it wasn’t just that the writing was too loose, it was also riddled with sports cliché. And we’ve already seen that movie, the boxing match as redemption. Kurt Sutter (of Sons of Anarchy fame) has nothing new to add, and director Antoine Fuqua seems to have a pretty light touch, unless they were literally going for Most Tragedies Inexplicably Overcome.

So while I believed Gyllenhaal, I wasn’t convinced by the script. It keeps pounding us relentlessly with heaps of depressing shit and it’s hard to earn any modicum of triumph after such an onslaught. It’s gritty as fuck but then it chickens out. And just looking at Gyllenhaal, how 1437571988_southpaw-articlecommitted he is to this role, how hard he’s trying, you feel bad that everyone’s let him down and this just never gets to be the movie it maybe could have been. Sean felt that the boxing bits were pretty extraordinary, and it showed how Jake had worked his little buns off to get into such tough fighting shape (although noticeably fought right-handed save for one notable left-handed uppercut, says Sean, who was really irked by that the movie would be called Southpaw, which literally means a left-handed boxer, and then not pay attention to which hand is the dominant fighting hand. I myself did not notice such a thing because I’m sports-deficient).

I think it’s worth a rental just to watch Gyllenhaal, who is definitely on fire and making bold, interesting choices in his career. But the truth is I’d rather watch him any day in creepy Nightcrawler than watch this movie, with its bevy of eye injuries (and you may remember I’m a strict eye-phobe, which means I only watched about 40% of this movie since every time his eye bleeds, my vision goes blurry) and the physical and emotional blunt force trauma that’s just so goddamned brutal to watch.

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18 thoughts on “Southpaw

  1. Matt

    I’d say you’re spot on. Jake deserved a much better movie for him to play this character. Really Fuqua is the problem, who’s not exactly the guy to call when you have a great script. I hated his return to the ring as a means to solve any of his problems.

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  2. Sean

    So many weird things happen in this movie. I enjoyed it despite them because of the boxing scenes. They’re awesome. Jake Gyllenhaal is great, both because he talks like he’s taken a beating (without having a cartoonish voice like Rocky) and because he seems to have worked super hard learning how to box (apparently he had never done it before this movie which I would not have guessed).

    But yeah, don’t call the movie “Southpaw” when he’s not one! That really distracted me through the entire movie and there was no payoff in that respect at all. Which is really too bad. Jake deserved better than what he was given here by Kurt Sutter.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’m sorry you’re taking it so hard, Sean.

      Kurt Sutter originally meant this movie to be a non-literal follow up to Eminem’s 8 Mile, with Eminem in the lead role. Eminem is a lefty, but Sutter also though the whole southpaw\left handed boxer thing was an apt metaphor for being a white rapper. Go figure.
      Anyway, Eminem decided to concentrate on music instead, and Jake took over, and the title remained. but there’s an awful lot of Eminem music that got left in and curiously no 50 cent, not as far as I could tell.
      Speaking of which, did anyone else feel like poor 50 cent couldn’t act, so they let his many fedoras do the acting for him?
      not to audience: fedora – douchebag

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      1. Sean

        If Eminem had been involved this movie could only have been awful. I just don’t see it playing out any other way. So at least they got one thing right, the casting of the lead, though apparently they tried to screw that up and Eminem just didn’t cooperate!

        Also the boxer/white rapper metaphor is possibly worse than the Jax Teller/Jesus one from Sons of Anarchy!

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  3. Carrie Rubin

    I’m bummed I missed this when it came around. I had planned to see it, but apparently I blinked and it was gone. Must not have earned much in the box office. But I’ve been a Gyllenhaal fan since The Good Girl. Even saw him in Bubble Boy. Do I dare admit that?

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    1. Jay Post author

      Too late, no take-backsies!
      That’s pretty dedicated.
      U kujed him since Donnie Darko but evidently not enough to see that one!

      Yes, it really wasn’t around long and that’s not really fair since despite its flaws, I think it’s still probably better viewing than yet another explody superhero movie or brainless action attrocity. But what do I know? Millions of box office dollars can’t be wrong!

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      1. fragglerocking

        lol (oops lol isn’t in anymore so haha instead) don’t you go trashing my superhero’s and brainless action atrocities now, once you’ve reached a certain age you’ll have done so much think talky stuff both in movies and life, that a bottle of wine and Jason Statham/X-men et al will be a deliverance to the soul. 🙂

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      2. Jay Post author

        And actually, Fraggle, I’ll NEVER like those movies. I imagine I’ll just get more crotchety about them as I age, as I plan on milking my age for all it’s worth and just throwing tantrums when the world doesn’t suit me, which will be always. It will be glorious.

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    2. Jay Post author

      Yes but if you’d said Donnie Darko I would have just nodded in agreement and thought nothing of it. This way, I’ll ALWAYS remember you as the Bubble Boy fan. So much better!

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  4. Jordan Dodd

    The trailer of this certainly made it look cliched as all hell. I miht go see this for Jake’s performance but I’m with you, I’ll take Nightcrawler of a cliched movie like this any day of the week!

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    1. Sean

      It’s a whole pile of clichés. But the boxing scenes in particular are head and shoulders above the other films in this genre. And Jake Gyllenhaal is the reason for that. He carries this movie. I feel lucky to have seen him on Broadway as before that it was too easy to overlook him. The guy really is a fantastic actor. He goes all out here and salvages what otherwise would be a huge mess.

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  5. J.

    The trailer didn’t sell this too well. Then a friend told me it was written for Eminem by Kurt Sutter. So I thought I’d catch it further down the line. Appears that was a good decision!

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