I’m trying to decide if Southpaw is more than just another boxing movie or if I believe that it is because I really wanted it to break out of that mold and the standard plot points of sports movies focusing on themes of redemption and revenge.
My expectations were probably too high after seeing Creed, but Southpaw does have the selling point of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Billy Hope that I tried to focus on over its clichés, especially that scene leading up to the big fight, game, dance routine (for all you Step Up fans), etc.
Creed has them too: the slow motion shots of a boxer jumping rope, the obligatory scene of him running through the city streets in a hoodie, perhaps with rap music playing the background, taping up his hands … I could go on.
Creed is perhaps a better movie because of the back story of its main characters and connection to Rocky, but its plot and that of Southpaw really aren’t all that different.
Southpaw, however, does stray in its format a little bit as it presents a top dog to underdog back to top dog development of Hope’s character and career as a boxer while Adonis Johnson in Creed doesn’t have quite as many ups and downs.
I’ll stop comparing the two other than to say both films also feature and focus on their boxer trying to find a new trainer, in Hope’s case it’s Tick Wills (Forrest Whitaker) who is hesitant to take on a new protégé.
Before Hope and Wills meet, he loses almost everything he had going for him in his life and is seeking redemption to get back what is left of his family and career.
The trailer for the film unfortunately spoils what happens to Hope but I won’t here because I think not knowing would have added a little more to the viewing experience.
The pivotal scene that sends Hope on his redemption quest is one of the many in the film that exemplifies Gyllenhaal’s performance and acting skills.
Plain and simple, Gyllenhaal is a good crier and can bring the emotion to any scene effectively (maybe it’s those puppy dog eyes) and the showing of the loss he experiences early on in the film made me think of that moment where Brad Pitt’s character just loses it in Legends in the Fall. You know what I’m talking about, or I hope you do because I’m about to admit the fact that I used to rewind the movie and watch that scene over and over again like a total weirdo. Boy it feels good to get that off my chest after all these years although I really just want to delete this whole paragraph. Would the redeemed Billy Hope do that? No, I think he would say you just have to accept who you are and move on.
Which, thank goodness, brings me back to Southpaw. I’ve actually been watching the final fight scene as I type this (I need to watch four movies before I work today to catch up on my challenge), and it unfortunately takes away from how Gyllenhaal carried the film with his performance by delivering a completely expected ending.
The fight is redemption for Hope and his family life, but it’s mainly just a final cliché moment synonymous with boxing films that took Southpaw down a notch for me.
I didn’t have a fitting quote connected to Southpaw to end this, so I picked a book on my shelf and turned to the first page in the first chapter.
“A man’s alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself.”
Catch Me If You Can.