A masterfully acted, predictable boxer film
......I love this film. Maybe I'm just a complete sucker for the predictable boxer film, but seriously....was Rocky any different? Were you really shocked by the results of Rocky? Was that love story really that gripping? Southpaw is getting panned by critics, but I really don't know why. Maybe it's because the Weinstein Brothers co-produced it? Movie critics have major beef with the Weinstein Brothers: they are in bed with the Oscar committee-who have basically reserved one of the spots for Best Picture for whatever "important" film they release on December 31-and have all-around made themselves as pretentious as possible. Southpaw is no exception: it wants to think its way more important than it actually is. But I still have no problem with that. Because I am a sucker for a fun boxer film, and despite its attempt to be more important than it actually is, Southpaw is still a very fun boxer film.
A big reason, no the MAIN reason, is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal has AGAIN put in a masterful performance. This man is on some kind of role recently, putting in performance after performance where he flawlessly is absorbed into whatever character he is playing. It's incredible to me, because after being number 1 on my list for best performances of 2014, I obviously had extraordinarily high expectations for him going into this film. And he still surpassed them. STILL. He's got another film coming out this year in Everest, and between Southpaw and that film, I'm expecting this is the year where Gyllenhaal finally gets his first (and long overdue) nomination for Best Actor from the Academy. It has to be. And then there's everyone else. Forrest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams are excellent in their roles, also being absorbed into the characters they're playing. However, I have to give a shoutout to child-actress Oona Laurence. If she blew her role as the daughter of Gyllenhaal's character, this film would've fallen flat on its face. Good thing she didn't. Laurence has actually been in several films to this point, but this is the first film I've seen with her in it. I have a feeling we'll be seeing her again.
I also really liked the editing and cinematography. The way the boxing fights were shot was outstanding, featuring brutal close-ups, first-person views, and a few bottom up shots. They even tried to throw in a few jump-cuts into the fights to make it a little jarring, and while they didn't really work, I have to respect director Antoine Fuqua for at least trying, which is more than can be said for most films today. Now, there are some problems that some may view as pretty glaring. Just remember, though: I'm the guy who will defend Real Steel to the grave, even though some called it the worst film of 2011. I am a sucker for boxing films, ok? Well....if you want a film that keeps you guessing until the very end.....keep looking. Southpaw is extremely predictable.The story here was mostly spoiled by the trailers, and, after setting up an interesting premise, the filmmakers take no risks whatsoever in the final act. This is a fault of countless boxing films, but it's becoming more and more glaring to some when you look at the genre and see that Foxcatcher is essentially the only film with a twist in its final act. And that "twist" only occurs because Foxcatcher is based off of real-life events. So the "twist" had to be there because that's what happened in real-life. So, way to take a risk there, wrestling/boxing genre. Yay. But again....I don't care. Ummmm I guess the other big complaint here is that the film thinks it's more than it actually is. It's got the Weinstein touch-it's an "important" film, and you're a bad person if you don't see it-and that's going to turn off a lot of people. But damnit I'm not one of them! I'm happy that I got to scratch my itch for a boxing film, Southpaw. So thank you for that.
The Critique: While ridiculously predictable and heavy-handed, Southpaw delivers masterful performances from everyone involved, and it is exactly what any fan of the boxing genre wants out of their boxing film. Oh and Jake Gyllenhaal is shirtless for most of the film. That's always a plus.
The Recommendation: I think you know what I'm going to say here. If you like Rocky, you're gonna like Southpaw. If you like Jake Gyllenhaal, you better go and see this film. Ya. That's right. You better. ALL HAIL THE CHURCH OF JAKE.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8/10 Great