With the release of Southpaw in theaters today, it’s time to take a look at a review roundup for the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring boxing movie. The sports drama follows the fall from grace and attempted redemption of boxer Billy “The Great” Hope, played by Gyllenhaal. Southpaw was initially conceived as a sort-of remake/re-imagining of the boxing drama movie The Champ, and according to the Los Angeles Daily News, originally had rapper Eminem attached to the lead role.
Reviews for Southpaw have been largely mixed, with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 53 percent at time of publishing. Critic Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune commends Southpaw’s lead performances from Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams, but laments the cliche-filled script.
“Does it succeed? Sort of. It helps if you don’t mind your boxing movies made up of massive granite chunks of previous boxing movies. Just don’t confuse Southpaw with a really good example of the genre and its ringside dramatic possibilities, whether old (The Set-Up, Champion) or newer (Raging Bull or the less grandiose The Fighter). The script may have hamburger for brains, but Fuqua slams it home with the help of actors who give their all — even when giving a little less might have made things more interesting.”
The arc of Southpaw follows the self-destructive lead as he fights for sympathy in and out of the ring. As Billy Hope struggles to keep his home life stable, he struggles to keep focus and fight as smart as he needs to in the ring. Elaine Tang of New Republic says this struggle is what makes the movie so compelling.
“Just when he’s at his most sympathetic, he flies into a rage and crashes his car into a tree. He can’t walk away from a fight, no matter how idiotic, and he can’t admit his own mistakes, no matter how painfully obvious. Gyllenhaal melts into the role completely, walking and talking like a man who’s been beaten up too many times. But while his rages are furious, his tenderness is sincere. His limitations are many and obvious. Billy Hope might not be your most likeable guy, but Gyllenhaal doesn’t care if you like him. He wants you to understand him.”
Overall it seems that outside of a derivative and sports-movie-cliche filled plot, Southpaw delivers a solid character study with sturdy performances from its leads. Southpaw opens up this weekend against the Adam Sandler-led Pixels (which critics haven’t been too kind to) and the book-to-movie adaption Paper Towns.
You can catch a trailer for Southpaw below.
[Image via The Weinstein Company]