I am phenomenal! Jake Gyllenhaal stars as boxing champ Billy Hope, who is on a roller coster ride from the top of the world, personally and professionally, to the bottom. Everything that could go wrong for Billy pretty much does. Hope rises, to fall, but can Billy rise again?
This movie was one of my most anticipated of the year. After Nightcrawler, Enemy, and Prisoners, Jake Gyllenhaal has been swinging for the fences and absolutely killing it. All three of those films are great and he is even better in them. He hasn’t been picking bad films to be in, anything he chooses to be in you know is a must see. I didn’t foresee him choosing a boxing movie anytime soon, but you know if he wanted to be in it, that it had to be good.
Working with smaller named directors in his last three outings, he’s being directed here by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, one of the biggest names behind the camera in recent memory. He’s been doing some good work lately, Olympus has Fallen is a fun time at the movies, and he did great at building the tension in that, and I really dug The Equalizer, directing action is his cup of tea no doubt. Is directing one of the best actors today in a emotionally driven boxing film going to open people’s eyes to his diversity when it comes to the types of films he can direct well?
Southpaw made me feel a lot of things. I was heartbroken for Billy Hope. You start the movie on a high, he’s just won a title defense and you get to see a look into his personal life. Maurine (Rachel McAdams) really is his rock, he goes to her for guidance when he needs to be steered on the right track. The Husband and wife dynamic between them was very natural, and you felt the love they had for each other. Their daughter Leila is the cutest child ever. She just has you saying aw every time you see her.
There is an unfortunate event that transpires in this film that I won’t spoil, that the trailers did. If you don’t watch the trailers this will take you by complete surprise and add to your overall experience on Billy Hopes journey. Unfortunately I knew what was going to happen and it didn’t really hit me as hard. I do believe you will be better off going into this movie blind.
Once Billy hits rock bottom, he is forced to overcome another massive obstacle, that hits him as hard, if not harder than the one previously. That drives him to go back to basics where he meets Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) a trainer and runner of a gym in a bad part of town. Billy is desperate to train and to find a job, and Tick gives him both of those things. That’s another relationship in the film that was developed well, and came about organically. Whitaker is brilliant as Tick, he really gives off that love of the sport of boxing, and not all the other glitz and glamour that has overtaken the sport. Tick wants Billy to become a better man FIRST and then a better boxer. He wants him to come on time, follow the rules everyone else in the gym has to follow as well. No special treatment.
Tick and Billy reminded me a lot of the dynamic between Rocky and Mickey. The Billy Hope character himself reminds me a lot of Rocky. He has a lot of heart and needs some guidance to be great. There is a lot of homage paid to the Rocky films here. There’s some Rocky III moments in the beginning and some original Rocky in the middle, with Rocky Balboa (or 6) at the end. Antoine Fuqua shot the training montage, and the boxing scenes fantastic. He created the feeling of a real fight with that HBO style, with some Fuqua sprinkled in.
This movie is a story about redemption and relationships first, before it’s a boxing movie, and that’s what I loved about it. I cried with Billy Hope, and felt triumph with him as well. I loved this film and can say with confidence that this will be this generations Rocky.