Training Day Director Antoine Fuqua has managed to make a Film about Boxing which somehow speaks eloquently both to Women and Men. Make no mistake though – this isn’t exclusively about Sport, it’s actually much, much more than that.
SOUTHPAW has an incredible amount of buzz surrounding it and for a start Fuqua got the casting right. Although the numbers don’t reflect it, Jake Gyllenhaal appears to have hit a sweet spot in his career which has seen a remarkable depth and quality over his past few Films including the outstanding Nightwatcher and End of Watch. He stars as a Boxer named Billy Hope past his peak. After his beautiful wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) plead for him to spend more time at home, he decides to retire. His world collapses and the downward spiral begins from there as we watch him lose everything. Driven by his love for the two things he has left in his life – Boxing and Leila – he must find a way to overcome his greatest demons to survive and become the Man who truly was meant to be.
SOUTHPAW succeeds on the whole and while it struggles tonally at times in its identity as a Father-Daughter Drama and a factually-correct Boxing Drama, no one can deny that it is mighty riveting. Gyllenhaal is spellbinding in his physical transformation and it is impossible to keep your eyes off the screen when he is on. He embodies Billy‘s intricacies completely from his New York City English down to the rigorous physicality required of the role. Gyllenhaal is fully in the zone here and he makes us forget some of the oversimplifications of the Story and focus on Billy‘s fight to live and his fight to be with his Daughter.
TONY-recognized Child Actress Laurence is impressive and carries a certain maturity to her which serves to carry-on her Mother’s presence even when she no longer is on-screen. McAdams despite being seen far too little, leaves a mark and convinces us she’s a woman worth fighting for. Not that Whittaker needs that validation as his talents are well-recognized, but he delivers a fire we haven’t seen in quite some time as he too rises to the challenge and transforms into Billy‘s Trainer, Tick. Another mention in the strong Ensemble goes to British Actress Naomie Harris as Leila‘s real and compassionate Case Worker.
Fuqua crafts a Film which not only leaves you in tears, but cheers. eOne Films release SOUTHPAW on Friday, July 24, 2015.