Heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun, Training Day, Shooter, The Equalizer) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw follows the story of a very successful boxer, Billy Hope, who falls on hard luck after his wife (Rachel McAdams) dies tragically and everything else in his life disappears along with her. In order to get his life and his daughter back, Billy Hope puts all his hope (not to mention his body) into getting back in the ring and becoming a better man and single father. With the help of a new trainer with demons of his own (Forest Whitaker), Billy finds it in himself to change his style, his attitude, and ultimately, the trajectory of his life. It can be painful to watch at times (for the punching as well as for the more emotional scenes), but it’s certainly worth watching.
Sports-related comeback movies are not uncommon, but what makes Southpaw so unique is the pure, raw emotion and the way it is presented. This movie is so well-acted that you forget you have seen this kind of boxing/redemption movie before. Jake Gyllenhaal is like you’ve never seen him. In order to condense the eight months of necessary boxing training in half, he trained twice a day for four months in order to get his body into the right shape and have enough boxing prowess to film the fight scenes. His isn’t just physically at his best either, this is one of the better performances he has given in his 24-year career. The other actors that should not (and cannot) be overlooked are the ones who play his wife and daughter, Rachel McAdams and Oona Laurence. Since it was shown in the previews and provides the basis for the movie, the on screen death should come as no surprise and shouldn’t be considered a spoiler. But brace yourself; it is by-far one of the most gut wrenching, realistic, and heartbreaking moments you can ever witness on film. Oona Laurence also has many impressive scenes, especially for a newcomer such as herself.
Overall, Southpaw is not light, is not funny, and should be watched with the expectation that you will be emotionally affected, perhaps even grieving through some intense moments. It is an absolute must-see for the performances and to witness what the human body can do (and endure) in four months.
The soundtrack features two new songs from Eminem (“Phenomenal” and “Kings Never Die”) and a score by the late James Horner, to whom the soundtrack was dedicated. As usual, Horner delivered a powerful score; his music and his talent will certainly be missed.
Southpaw is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It made over $104M in the worldwide box office, about 50% of that was domestic.
Watch the official trailer: