Saturday, March 12, 2016

SOUTHPAW (2015)



Directed By: Antoine Fuqua 
Written By: Kurt Sutter 
Cinematography By: Mauro Fiore 
Editor: John Refoua 


Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Forest Whitaker, Beau Knapp, Miguel Gomez, Dominick Colon, Skylan Brooks, Naomie Harris, Victor Ortiz, Rita Ora

*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review

As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope, begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is the strength of the film and provides a kind of new type of performance from him. That makes him seem more brutal and streetwise. Speaks as more of a brawler. Unfortunately he film doesn't give him much to work with nor does it rise to the sorts of depth that he tries to showcase. As the film ends up becoming more of combination of well intended and dressed up cliches. That make the film constantly feel familiar, yet ends up becoming formulaic.

As soon as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson shows up we know all we need to know about his character and where most likely the story is going. As everyone seems to play their character by the book. Which again makes the film come off as paint by numbers. Where here they try to color outside of the edges time to time to throw off where the movie is going. For instance a scene or two where it seems like the film might go the revenge route and quickly drops that side of the story. I am guessing as his spiritual well being and beating up the guys friend in the ring will be the ultimate revenge?

His wife's murder subplot is a major point of the film. As it introduces the revenge-justice angle of the story but after that it never answers many of the questions the audience has. Like what happened to the guy? Was he caught as the entourage seemed to rush him out. Also I know it is easy to set his opponent up as a major villain, but his look of shock could have opened up the movie dramatically as to what he is going to do about this. Turn his friend in? Hide him And disavow him. That is a major dramatic opportunity dropped. We never even really see it affect him other than that moment and leaves you to wonder is he just shocked, thinking they were just busting each others chops and this fool brought it to a place it didn't bleed to be or wondering will this hurt his career? As is it only sets up a well earned rivalry. As it is Gyllenahaal enemies camp fault for the death.

So that it seems the film keeps coming up with interesting ideas and abandoning them. To either keep the movie streamlined and moving forward or were scared to go off the path that might have added something new to the mix and made it at least more noteworthy.

It seems the child bonding scenes are here to give the main character something to strive for and keep him going throughout. As well as show his sensitive side and add a heartwarming element to the film.

Strangely the film seemed to be set-up to be an awards season challenger and THE boxing movie of the year, but CREED seemed to be the one that no one saw coming to take that title, An underdog itself.

While that takes shape on the side the film adds a child surrogate for him to bond with as it ends up having little to no reason. As it eliminates it later for emotional manipulation, but as it was never built too strongly. So that it just adds up to a challenging scene that asks us to get emotional for something. And someone that wasn't properly or strongly introduced in the first place. That just seems to reinforce the fact that these are some mean streets. Embrace them, but try to get away from them also. In other words don't forget where you came from.

We envy get the grizzled old trainer played by Forest Whitaker whose character is tough but loving and likes a drink now and then.

The film uses the fight as a representation of revenge and redemption. It also encourages the reunion with his child. On that end the film again becomes not only cliche but convenient as the social worker he is dealing with at first seems more gruff with him. Though all of a sudden with no real reason she does an about face and is one of his biggest supporters. A dramatic decision that isn't seen or earned.

The film has plenty of workout scenes to show the brutality of trading but gives the men credit for the toughness and bravado shown. Letting the audience have a more physical reaction to the actors physical (it seems) transformation. I am sure it also helps to convince the audience to be attracted to the star even more.

The boxing scenes are more about brutality and seem to want to come off more as street fights that is how vicious they look at times.

Though the film eventually becomes monotonous as it seems to get in it's Own way too often that not even the impressive visuals can save.

"Southpaw" is the term given to unorthodox stance (left-handed) boxers. However,Jake Gyllenhaal is right-handed, therefore orthodox. He only adopts the southpaw stance in the final fight under instruction from his trainer Which even seems like a premeditated conclusion for the title.

As the film was first offered to star Eminem as a unofficial follow up to 8 MILE. One can see how as the character has many similarities to him as far as the public knows about him and fits the themes of his songs. Closeness to his daughter, growing up on the mean streets, becoming successful and still not being entirely happy, having many enemies who seem to come for him. Having an entourage, going down the road of drugs and booze that seems to almost destroy him, making a comeback. Though Eminem did work on the soundtrack and wrote 2 songs for the film

Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner were all considered for the role of Billy Hope.

The song that plays at the end of this film, "Wise Man" by Frank Ocean, was originally written to be in the film DJANGO UNCHAINED. Quentin Tarantino wasn't able to find a scene to place the song in, so it was eventually scrapped from the final cut.

Antoine Fuqua had no money to pay James Horner to compose the film, due to the film's short budget. However, Horner did not care as he loved the idea of the film, and he decided to do it for free. This is the last film scored by composer James Horner, before dying in a plane crash on June 22, 2015.

It's a film that could have been interesting, but we have seen it way before. Even if it tries to offer a different take then ROCKY a more street smart, tougher and violent one. It just offers nothing new. Other than an opportunity to see a movie star stretch.

Maybe as it seems to try and at the time seek out awards contention. That might be the reason the film feels so stuffed. As it goes overboard in trying to impress the audience. Instead of just being itself and going where the story could naturally lead.


Grade: C-

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