Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw tells the story of Billy Hope, the reigning Junior Middleweight Champion of the World whose aggressive, brawler style of boxing has left his wife, Maureen, concerned about his life after boxing. When tragedy strikes in the form of his wife falling victim to a fatal gunshot wound, Hope finds his lifelong manager and friend leave him behind, sending the once proud fighter down a spiral of alcohol, drugs, and self-destruction. Losing his daughter to child protective services due to his negligence, Billy turns to an unlikely savior in Tick Willis, a retired fighter and trainer at a run-down local gym. Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw is a by-the-numbers redemption story in which the whole narrative feels very predictable, offering very few surprises along its two-hour running time. The film is quite manipulative, attempting to pull the heart-strings of its audience at every turn, using coodinated plot points that essentially attempt to tell the viewer how to feel, with nothing feeling organic about Hope's struggle to get back on his feet. The one bright spot of the film is Jake Gyllenhaal, who puts in another strong performance as this rough-around-the-edges characters. Billy Hope is a character who came from nothing, growing up on the streets of Hell's Kitchen, and perhaps the greatest aspect of Gyllenhaal's performance is how he encaptures this type of character, delivering a performance that evokes the deep-seeded rage of this man who has a simplistic perspective on how he sees the world. If you have any desire to see Southpaw I'd highly recommend you do so before seeing Creed, as the later film's boxing sequences are much more interesting, authentic feeling, and artistically composed, with much of Southpaw's fight choreography being rather bland, outside of nice use of point-of-view photography. Southpaw features a manipulative, predictable narrative that is hard to get overly invested in, with Jake Gyllenhaal's performance really being the only saving grace of the film.
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