Swanner: I’m not a big fan of sports movies going in to the theatre. I don’t like the blood or violence, but in the middle of summer, it’s nice to see a movie who’s main focus is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Billy Hope, an up-from-the-streets fighter who as become a champion in the boxing ring. After a shooting accident which leaves his wife dead, (its not a spoiler if it’s in the preview) Billy Hope has to pull his life back together to save his daughter from the social services system.
Judd: I was interested enough in Southpaw to lift my hiatus and see the movie at a press screening. Between Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker, I figured Southpaw would be a character piece about boxing, rather than a boxing movie. Unfortunately, I was wrong. While Gyllenhaal and Whitaker act the shit out of this movie — how’s that for eloquence? — their talent is bookended by a cliched comeback story, and sympathy for Billy doesn’t come until the movie is half over.
Swanner: I agree that the movie did fall into the cliche comeback story, but the acting, for me, was what kept the film’s head above water. I wish the comeback had started earlier, because once it did, the film got better. The first half was angsty, as you would have expected, but I don’t think it needed to be. Billy has a daughter (Oona Laurence), that really needs him but his anger issues and self pity has this poor child living in the system. This alone should have had him getting his shit together faster. This time offered plenty of “acting” time for Gyllenhaal, when it should have been use to advance this story.
Judd: Outside of the cliched plot, the big thing that bothered me was that Hope’s recovery was glossed over. His temper and anger issues were broadcast to the back row, but how he overcame them was never addressed. The movie focused more on his physical training, not the mental training that Hope needed. At one point it seemed like screenwriter, Kurt Sutter, was going to give us an addiction/alcoholism subplot with Whitaker, but that too disappeared. The same went for his wife’s murderer and the little boy that was killed in an unrelated act of violence. Southpaw is a movie full of half told stories.
Swanner: No argument from me on what was missing. I thought the story they were telling was the father rescuing his child. That took too long to get to for me. Director Antoine Fuqua obviously didn’t know what story he was telling. Fortunately, Gyllenhaal and Whitaker don’t give bad performances, because otherwise, the film is down for the count.
Swanner: 2 stars
Judd: 2 stars