“‘Southpaw’ is a TKO” – movie review

Southpaw is a TKO - movie review

Real Three Stars

Devin King | Staff Reporter
Published July 24, 2015; 11:00 a.m

Director Antoine Fuqua’s films are known for being far from original. They tend to be packed with clichés and tropes, so much so that I have found myself questioning if some of Fuqua’s films are serious or not. Fuqua’s new boxing flick “Southpaw” is almost no different. Almost.

“Southpaw” is about fictional light-weight champion boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). In the beginning, Hope is shown to be clearly mentally unstable thanks to punch-drunkenness.

On paper, Hope is a very unlikeable character. He’s irrational and very self-centered, and if any lesser actor play Hope, the film would have been much weaker. Luckily, Gyllenhaal takes Hope’s character to highs with his charm and charisma. It is surprisingly hard to not like Hope, and it is only because of Gyllenhaal’s phenomenal performance, which is also by far the best part of the movie.

Things turn even sourer after a family tragedy, which causes Hope’s ever-increasing down-spiral. After a series of losses outside of the ring, Hope loses it all when he becomes suspended from boxing after head-butting a referee. Hope then finds retired boxer Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker) to help Hope train to get everything he lost back once his suspension is up.

Anyone reading this can probably guess where the movie goes. It is painfully predictable, to the point where I wondered if the writing was trying to play on its predictability and do something else. But nonetheless, “Southpaw” plays it safe, which is very ironic considering how dangerous it is for Hope to continue boxing with of much mental damage he has obviously sustained through his career.

Despite all its tropes, clichés and its predictable plot, “Southpaw” is still a relatively good movie. Even though no one else gives a performance as good as Gyllenhaal, the other performances are still pretty good. Whitaker and Oona Laurence, who plays Hope’s daughter Leila, are both also very enjoyable to watch.

The cinematography is pretty great. There are a couple of scenes where the cinematography is somewhat dull, but most of the time it complements what is going on. The boxing scenes benefit from this greatly. The cinematography is particularly well done in these scenes when it looks like a boxing match on live TV. Speaking of which, while to boxing is more realistic in this movie than others, the boxing is still relatively glorified and unrealistic.

Surprisingly, the score is also very well done as well. While the actual music tracks were good, such as songs from Eminem and the pieces composed by the late James Horner, specifically the piano tracks, are an absolute joy to listen to.

Overall, Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw” is a good movie. However, the movie suffers so much from its writing that no other external sources, such as the performances or cinematography, can really make it into a great film. Just like how a boxer can have a great trainer or set of gloves, it is what is inside that really counts.