What it's about:
One-time champion boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a shadow of his former self since his wife (Rachel McAdams) was killed in an accident, and his resultant self-destructive behaviour causes the child protection services to remove his young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) from his care.Now, in a last ditch effort to get Leila back, his last hope is returning to the world of boxing with the help of trainer Titus "Tick" Wills (Forest Whitaker) for one last shot at redemption.
What we thought:
When it comes to boxing movies there is only one definitive blueprint, Rocky, and unfortunately every other boxing movie will live in the highly successful franchise’s shadow.
What’s more inspirational than a down on his luck boxer who defines expectation to become a world champion; goose bumps right there folks.
Southpaw does a good job trying to walk in the footsteps of the great Rocky.
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is at the top of his career; he has an undefeated track record and a loving wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and a daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence), who is the light of their lives. Billy and Maureen are both orphans who grew up in the system.
His wife wants him to stop fighting so that he can enjoy the spoils of his career. He really doesn’t have anything to prove anymore but his money hungry manager Jordan (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) wants to milk the cow and lines up a lucrative TV deal for some more matches.
And then tragedy strikes: Billy’s wife is killed during a brawl. He is a hopeless man lost in his grief and as a result of his selfish actions he loses his daughter. His life spirals downward fast as his loses his house, his riches and his crew.
To get his daughter back Billy starts from the bottom; he gets a job cleaning Tick’s (Forest Whitaker) gym in exchange for training. Tick has a philosophical approach to training and boxing which he ultimately uses to not only transform Billy as a boxer but also a person.
He claws his way to the top and he is given one more chance driven by his love for his daughter to get everything back that he has lost.
Jake Gyllenhaal has showed us that he has the ability to transform himself over and over. The physicality of transforming himself into a boxer is remarkable and admirable. He had the boxing down, but somehow the acting just lacked a bit of heart.
Forest Whitaker can do no wrong with his performance being solid as usual.
The star of the show is Oona Laurence who delivers an emotional performance way beyond her years. Some of Jake’s best scenes were the ones they did together.
As any sporting movie goes the plot might be predictable, but it ticks on all the boxes to tugging the heartstrings: overcoming fear, rising above your circumstances and the triumph of the human spirit. I dare anyone not to be moved by this story of hope which makes it worth the watch.
Oh and Eminem’s Phenomenal is right up there with inspirational theme songs.