Southpaw is a 2015 sports drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams. It is exactly as critics deem it – a powerfully acted, but otherwise weak movie in every regard.
The story is so incredibly predictable and cliched. But it follows the exact same formula of a sports movie with every exactly same scenario. That was just “incredible”. You have a guy who is at the top of the game, a wife who begs him to stop, a wife dies because of an argument he got into with some rivals, he loses his kid, he has to get her back and he has to win the match in the end and of course wins it. Yes, it is that cliched.
But what was even more unfortunate and way more problematic is the movie’s tendency to go into maudlin territory. Southpaw is a melodrama of highest and most unnecessary order. Yes, it may seem emotional and impactful to you, but it is just way too much emotion thrown in with some way too overly dramatic scenes. The movie has this guy literally go through hell with every bad scenario followed by an even worst. That was not just unnecessary, but also highly unprofessional and a typical emotional bait for the audience before playing the cliche card. They try to make you forget that the entire movie is one giant cliche, but they fail at that as even the most unknowing person would notice it very soon.
Now of course the acting is superb. It is the whole reason why this movie works at least to some degree. Forest Whitaker is really good and Rachel McAdams is quite solid in a small role. Jake Gyllenhaal if naturally phenomenal with such a great, committed and respectable performance. He once again proved his capabilities here and he surely is one of my favorite actors today. However, he is not the best actor in Southpaw. That has to be Oona Laurence who doesn’t get the credit she deserves with this film. She is absolutely magnificent and she gave such a great performance in such a difficult and demanding role. And having in mind she is just a child, that is even a more impressive feat.
But the characters are everything but impressive. Leila is a likable kid, but Tick and Maureen are very typical characters that I did not care for at all. As for Billy Hope, despite being wonderfully acted by Jake, he is still a familiar protagonist with a very expected behavior and the filmmakers just showered him with misfortune and despair and never giving him proper character development and differenciating him from countless others in the sports genre.
Southpaw is very professional when technical aspects are concerned. It is well shot and well acted. The directing from Antoine Fuqua is unremarkable, but the score is solid although not my type of music. But it is too long for such a film and the tone is all over the place with sometimes jarring shifts at display. But it looks good and is well acted. It is too well filmed and well acted for this lackluster story.
Southpaw is an evident cliche with such a predictable and incredibly familiar storyline, but it is above all a poorly handled melodrama with an overreliance on showering the protagonist with every possible misfortune and despair. It is very well acted with Jake Gyllenhaal and Oona Laurence being superb and it is well filmed, but everything else is mediocre and seen countless times before.