Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Cinema: Southpaw

Holy crap, it's almost August! That means the Summer Movie Season is nearly over! This weekend sees the release of Adam Sandler vs 80's video games Pixels as well as the adult drama with boxing, Southpaw. The Shield writer and Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter gets his first feature handled by one of my favorite current directors in the action-drama field, Antoine Fuqua, of Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter and The Equalizer fame. Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Billy Hope, an orphan from Hell's Kitchen, New York that grows up to be a boxing champion due to his aggressive, no defense style. By his side is fellow orphan and long time love Maureen (Rachel McAdams) who acts as his unofficial manager and only wants the best for Billy and young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). After a particularly brutal victory, Hope is thinking of taking a break to the chagrin of manager Jordan Mains (50 Cent). Up and coming title contender Miguel "Magic" Escobar (Miguel Gomez) dogs Billy every chance he gets which leads to a public brawl and a tragic event. If you've seen the trailer, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, it adds a nice layer of surprise, shock and emotion to the flick...

In a downward spiral, Billy loses his house, money and daughter before realizing he needs to be a father. After his training staff, management and entourage essentially abandon him, Billy seeks out Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), the coach of the only fighter Hope feels beat him. Inner city and orphanage hardships, grieving, child services, court ordered mandates, derailed vigilantism,  swallowing your pride and making a comeback via Eminem soundtracked training montage drama ensues. Of course with the cast and story involved, performances are raw and gritty but not particularly captivating. Producer Harvey Weinstein thinks this will get Jake G. his Oscar nod after being overlooked for last year's stellar Nightcrawler but I just don't see it. Gyllenhaal plays a punk from the streets who isn't too smart to a T but you're not exactly rooting for him and are only interested in his story because that's what the movie is about. McAdams plays a spunky yet protective Jersey wife quite well and Whitaker is his usual dependable self as the coach with his own demons. While Gyllenhaal is ripped and looks the part, for a film with boxing, the pugilism scenes lack a certain impact but do show you a few things about the sport and technique involved.

All in, Southpaw is fine matinee counter programming to big, noisy blockbusters that contains some drama and heart along with solid performances. But in the end, there isn't anything you won't see coming and would probably play a lot better if you've never seen Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky IV or Rocky Balboa. A quick tribute to recently deceased film composer extraordinaire James Horner ends the film which elicited more emotion than the film could.

No comments:

Post a Comment