These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.
ROCKY. THE FIGHTER. CINDERELLA MAN. Seriously, how many more boxing movies do we need to tell? (Granted, I’ve never seen CINDERELLA MAN) I honestly didn’t have much of an interest in seeing this movie because of that, but a raving review from a co-worker prompted my curiosity. Took some time before work, grabbed a raspberry ice tea, and watched it.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal (STRONGER , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , EVEREST , and upcoming films WILDLIFE  and THE SISTERS BROTHERS ), Oona Laurence (BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS , THE BEGUILED , PETE’S DRAGON , and the upcoming THE BURIED GIRL ), Forest Whitaker (BLACK PANTHER , STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE , ARRIVAL , and upcoming films SORRY TO BOTHER YOU  and CITY OF LIES ), Rachel McAdams (DISOBEDIENCE , DOCTOR STRANGE , SPOTLIGHT , MIDNIGHT IN PARIS , and the upcoming SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 ), and Miguel Gomez (MEGAN LEAVEY )
Support: Naomie Harris (RAMPAGE , OUR KIND OF TRAITOR , SPECTRE , and upcoming films MOWGLI  and possibly Bond 25 ), Victor Ortiz (THE EXPENDABLES 3 ), Beau Knapp (DEATH WISH , BILLY LYNN , THE GIFT , and upcoming films DESTROYER  and VANDAL ), Rita Ora (FIFTY SHADES FREED  and DARKER , and upcoming films WONDERWELL  and POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU ), and 50 Cent (DEN OF THIEVES , POPSTAR , SPY , and the upcoming ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES )
Director: Antoine Fuqua (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN , and the upcoming THE EQUALIZER 2 )
Writer: Kurt Sutter (SONS OF ANARCHY [2008 – 2014] and 17 episodes of THE SHIELD [2002 – 2008])
Composer: James Horner (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN)
Cinematographer: Mauro Fiore (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and the upcoming X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX )
Editor: John Refoua (GEOSTORM  and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN)
This is my honest opinion of: SOUTHPAW
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a great boxer. He’s cocky and arrogant, but he’s got the skills the back it up. He’s loaded with cash and lives luxuriously. Also has a loving wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), and daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). After Billy’s latest fight, which was a hard one, Maureen later tells Billy that she wants him to be done with boxing to focus on his family. Billy is hesitant at first, but kind of agrees. Unfortunately, his semi-retirement comes at a great cost. While attending a charity event, he is met with a rival boxer, Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), who previously challenged him to a match, only to be rejected by Billy. Miguel tries again to challenge him, this time verbally attacking his wife, immediately prompting a fight. The scuffle gets out of hand as a gun from Miguel’s security detail goes off and hits Maureen, who shortly dies after in Billy’s arms. The loss of his wife sends him over the edge; failed attempts to seek revenge against Miguel and a drunken near-suicide attempt. These things end up with Billy losing Leila to the system unless he can clean his act up. Since he can’t box anymore, he needs a job and seeks it out in a boxing gym owned by former grizzled boxing coach Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker).
FUN FACT: Rapper Eminem was originally going to play the lead, but opted to executively produce so he could focus on his music.
Before I get into this, and I have quite a bit to say about it, this is a surprisingly good film. Unfortunately, there are some MAJOR problems that I have with it. I just wanted to get that out of the way, I like it more than I don’t. So let’s get into it.
Let’s start with my biggest problem with the film: the beginning. Dear God in Heaven, this struck every cliché and annoying note in the book. Here you have an athlete (already my prejudice is gnawing at me) who is, fine, talented at what he does. But he’s also an arrogant bastard who seems in love with himself as much as the sport he’s a part of. We also have an obvious hot-as-fuck wife acting like a hot-as-fuck wife, which… seriously, as a red-blooded heterosexual male, I shouldn’t complain about. McAdams wears that dress like it’s nobody’s mother fuckin’ business, but Jesus, this is distracting. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, it’s pretty much a staple of the genre, but it’s such a peeve. So far, we have a series of clichés and an unlikable protagonist. Oh, and to top this ice cream of annoyance off, he’s filthy fucking rich. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better. You have an asshole antagonist who easily goads the protagonist into a fight which ends tragically.
And this is where I nearly walked out of the movie. Look, the tragedy was incredibly well-played out and Gyllenhaal’s performance is amazing and really tugs at your heart-strings. Maureen’s death could easily have been rushed and treated like it was a throw-away moment, but it was actually prolonged to a decent amount of time to let what was happening sink in and let the actors really shine. This was a great scene. Then the rest of the act happened. Look, I get it, when you lose someone important to you, you grieve. This is especially true for spouses. I don’t fault the movie for that. But I do fault a lack of thinking things through. He didn’t lose his daughter in the gun-fight. He had her to think about and he wasn’t thinking about her. Doing any of this was just going to get him in a ton of trouble and then where would Leila be? This is a character flaw I can’t stand.
Honestly, some of the best scenes in the movie involve Gyllenhaal and the young Laurence. They have great chemistry together and Laurence is a surprisingly talented actress. She could very well be the next Abigail Breslin. She’s naive, but passionate and sharp as a whip. She gets angry and tough, but is vulnerable and confused, her performance might just be the heart of the movie. Gyllenhaal’s performance is definitely a solid one, if not monotoned more than necessary, but you really see the struggle he goes through as Billy and you really feel for the guy later on, which is what saves the movie. The moment he and Whitaker start sharing scenes is the moment that the movie picks up DRASTICALLY for me.
Billy starts to get really motivated to improving his behavior and well-being. He becomes a kinder, even wiser person. My favorite aspect about his training is that there’s never a moment where he’s all like, “Fuck this shit, your training isn’t working, I’m done with you” only to later realize that his training was working and goes back. No, Billy sticks to it and doesn’t get impatient, which is such a breath of fresh air for me because it’s around this time in the story that I was really rooting for him.
To be honest though, the ending is sort of just… merr, for me. I mean, yes, the fight between Billy and Miguel was built up and we knew where it was going, but this movie laid down the drama that I haven’t seen in a lot of boxing movies. Even ROCKY seems dated by this point. I just feel like the story would have worked better if Billy didn’t step into the ring to fight. Maureen wanted him to retire so he could concentrate on his family. He was given a prime opportunity to accept the situation, not cast blame on Miguel, and just walk away to be a better father for his daughter. Miguel is certainly a thick slice of dick-cheese, but he wasn’t the one that killed Maureen. Even he knew the situation. This was a legal case and should have been handled like so. I mean, did he suffer no consequences at the time of Maureen’s death? Even if not, no attempt to reach out and offer his condolences to Billy for what happened? I doubt Billy would have accepted and another fight would have broken out, but at least it would show that the antagonist isn’t a fucking monster for the sake of being a fucking monster. But that’s exactly how Miguel is written and his defeat just seems standard. He won a boxing match. That’s it. Kind of a lame ending.
I expected a whole lot worse and ended up with a lot more than I thought I would get. I hate the beginning of the movie, the middle is bar-none the best, and the ending is bland and formulaic. A pity because this did a lot of things right.
My honest rating for SOUTHPAW: a strong 3/5