July 24, 2015
The Weinstein Company
2 hours 4 minutes
It's amazing how far actors go to transform themselves into a character they're playing. Actors like Christian Bale have lost significant weight for movies only to gain it back in muscle for other films soon after. Jake Gyllenhaal has done something very similar in the case of his role in "Southpaw." After losing a shocking amount of weight to play the hauntingly charismatic Lou Bloom in last year's "Nightcrawler," Gyllenhaal gained a lot of muscle and pounds to play Billy Hope in this film. Hope is a boxer who has it all until a slew of tragic events cause him to lose it all. This story has been told many times before, making the result pretty predictable. Having said that, it still doesn't change how powerful this movie is in the long run.
Gyllenhaal gives it all as Hope, bringing the emotion and power into his performance. Forest Whitaker also shines as a trainer who helps Billy try to get back on top. The most impressive performance in the film comes from Oona Laurence as Billy's daughter. In every scene she's in, Laurence brings buckets of emotion with her and pulls at the heartstrings a lot. The story and script may not be the most original, but it's the performances, the direction from Antoine Fuqua, editing, and the rap-infused soundtrack that make "Southpaw" a movie worth seeing. From the opening scene of the movie, the grittiness of the film have you engaged with what's on screen, and at 124 minutes it never feels slow. "Southpaw" is a modern day, R-rated, boxing-themed version of "Rudy," and I loved every second of it. If you're a fan of underdog stories, despite them being predictable, then this movie is worth checking out.