With the film opening to a realistic depiction of the intensity in the locker room as a fighter prepares for battle, we are led to believe that we are about to witness a gritty and insightful view into the world of pugilism. Though the violence in Southpaw certainly is gritty, the script is so full of plot holes that it would be laughable if it didn’t drag on to the point of feeling like we’re being punched in the face.
Jake Gyllenhaal follows up last year’s underappreciated Nightcrawler with the underwhelming riches to rags to redemption Southpaw in which he plays Billy Hope, the undefeated light-heavyweight champion who has everything going for him except that he can’t seem to put together a coherent sentence. Punch-drunk, emotionally stunted, slow, or some combination thereof, eventually we stop trying to figure out what his problem is, because we’re too busy trying to figure out what writer Kurt Sutter (The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, and The Bastard Executioner) was thinking. Sure, Billy loses everything but luckily he meets his “Mr. Miyagi”, Tick Willis. played by Forrest Whitaker who is underutilized in the film. Nonetheless, Tick manages to teach puncher Billy how to box, he wins, yada, yada, yada.
Director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Olympus Has Fallen, Training Day, etc.) does the best he can with what he has by creating a world that is hard and dark, but eventually the unexplored storylines, unanswered questions, and glaring unrealistic choices shine light onto a weak story. The character of Billy that Sutter, Gyllenhaal, and Fuqua have created is not particularly likeable. which gives the audience little to invest in. Based on the box-office results listed on IMDB; the overall investment paid little dividends.
The Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Combo Pack from Anchor Bay hit store shelves on October 27 just in time to be dropped into the bags of trick-or-treaters. The bonus material includes deleted scenes, Q&A with cast members, and a documentary on the making of the film. Sadly, watching the bonus material only adds to the disappointment. Clearly, all involved in the film had the best of intentions. Visions and goals are shared and the effort put into achieve them is seen in great detail, yet few were achieved.
Spoiler Warning: The bonus material speaks of the professional boxers involved who made last-minute changes to the script to insure realism, yet in the second fight, Billy is clearly not intelligently defending himself but the referee is nowhere to be seen. The time between the first and second fights, and the six weeks’ notice in which he takes the championship fight are also not particularly realistic.
Also frustrating is the little investigation into the death of Billy’s wife (Rachel McAdams) shown on screen and that Billy almost immediately has financial problems even though his wife is shown to be quite business savvy and fiscally responsible.
Recommendation: No. This is not an enjoyable way to spend 123 minutes. Wait for it to come on TBS and then don’t watch it.
Creed is out in theatres now, and though not as dark and gritty as Southpaw, it’s far more enjoyable simply because it’s like visiting an old friend that you’ve enjoyed spending time with in the past.