dir Antoine Fuqua
scr Kurt Sutter
prd Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Antoine Fuqua, Alan Riche, Peter Riche, Steve Tisch
with Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, Oona Laurence, Naomie Harris, Miguel Gomez, Beau Knapp, Victor Ortiz, Dominic Colon, Malcolm M Mays, Rita Ora
release US/UK 24.Jul.15
15/US Weinstein 2h03
Sweat, muscles, scars, tattoos: Gyllenhaal

whitaker mcadams 50 cent
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Southpaw With a solid cast and gritty filmmaking, this boxing drama should be a lot more involving than it is. But there isn't a single original moment in the script. Each scene is another boxing movie cliche, as the story sidesteps interesting themes to take the simplest, most predictable route to the requisite ending.

An orphan raised by the system, Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is the world lightweight champ, married to his childhood sweetheart Maureen (McAdams) with a smart young daughter Leila (Laurence). But their rich-and-famous life is brought to a sudden end by a series of unexpected tragedies and financial issues. Abandoned by his high-rolling manager (Jackson), Billy takes a job in an inner-city gym run by the grizzled Tick (Whitaker), who helps Billy discover what's really important while getting him back in shape for a grudge match with arch rival Miguel (Gomez).

Fuqua directs this in his usual earthy style, with rundown sets populated by foul-mouthed men who are a mass of sweat, muscles, scars and tattoos. Gyllenhaal gives Billy as much pathos as he can, which isn't much when Sutter's script relentlessly paints him as a hothead who's responsible for all of his problems. It's even more of a struggle for Whitaker, whose character is never more than the usual "grizzled trainer played by an Oscar winner". McAdams livens things up considerably in her brief screen time, and Laurence unexpectedly steals the show as the most compelling character.

Every time a character threatens to become intriguing, the story takes another obvious turn. Fuqua is far more interested in the boxing action, which is shot with raw intensity: no slow-motion punches, just rapid-fire pugilism. The usual training montage is given a jagged edge by Eminem's music. And the restless pace races right past every opportunity to explore something more meaningful than two men beating each other up for millions of dollars.

In other words, the filmmakers seem oblivious to the core of their own story. For example, Billy's court-mandated rehab and anger management are left completely off-screen, even though they're actually the main point of his journey. Other even bigger themes are skipped over completely (including murder, grief, celebrity hangers-on and corruption in sport). There are all kinds of solid issues that could have been developed into something resonant or provocative, but while Gyllenhaal was clearly up for the challenge, Fuqua and Sutter were happy to just skim the surface.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Jul.15

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