Monday, August 31, 2015

Strong Performances Help 'Southpaw' Overcome a Hackneyed Plot

Southpaw is a boxing drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope, the undefeated junior middleweight champion of the world.  With his loving wife (Rachel McAdams) by his side serving as his chief adviser, Billy enjoys a successful career, the love of his family, and a lavish lifestyle.  However, tragedy strikes when a brawl breaks out during a charity event and his wife is accidentally shot in the chaos.  Broken down, Billy begins to abuse alcohol and drugs, and his life spirals downwards as he loses his title, his money, his house, and – due to succumbing to a destructive lifestyle – the custody of his daughter (Oona Laurence) as well.  Hitting rock bottom, he finds an unlikely shot at redemption at the hands of gym owner Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker).  With Tick as his trainer, Billy begins his grueling journey back to the top.

Southpaw has an unoriginal plotline.  It’s a story that I've seen in different forms for countless times already.  And yet it’s not boring to watch this familiar story unfold again.  This can probably be attributed to the all-around riveting performances of the cast – especially from Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and child actress Oona Laurence – who kept me absorbed on the narrative.  Gyllenhaal won’t get an Oscar for it, but his performance in this movie is another testament that he’s one of the most talented actors around today (seriously, he should had at least received an Oscar nomination for Nightcrawler).

In addition, the in-ring action is intense, gritty, and beautifully choreographed; the drama brings the feels and induces misty eyes; and the clichéd “riches to rags to riches” plot outline is actually executed in perfection.  Moreover, I’m sucker for well-done redemption stories, and Southpaw is a solid though unimaginative one.  So, yeah, despite the cheesy elements and narrative flaws, Southpaw has enough going for it to be considered an enjoyable and touching movie.

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