This Ain’t Your Daddy’s ‘Southpaw’ (Movie Review)

SouthpawSouthpaw is defined in the sport of boxing as the stance where the boxer has his right hand and right foot forward, leading with right jabs, and following with a left cross right hook.  Southpaw is the normal stance for a left-handed boxer.  Fictional boxer Rocky Balboa, for example, was a southpaw.  Therefore, I think you can pretty much conjure up that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in Southpaw is a southpaw.  You picking up what I’m dropping here because I’m pretty much lost on what point I want to make.  So now that you know what a southpaw is I guess we can move on to talking about the 2015 sports drama film, Southpaw.  Just out of curiosity how many times did I mention my keyword in this first paragraph?  If you said seven times, have someone in the room where you’re at clap for you.

Southpaw is directed by Antoine Fuqua from a script written by Kurt Sutter. The film stars Prince of Persia‘s Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Victor Ortiz and Rita Ora.  And get this, the film was original inspired by and written for Eminem to play the titular character.  In 2012 he all the sudden decided to focus on his music.  You know what?  Good riddance!  I’m glad he didn’t star in this one.  It gives me more time to enjoy my boy Jake on the big screen.  You know him and I were once on the same plane from L.A. to Cleveland.  Yep!  That’s a true story you can run with and print.

When I first heard about this project and even after taking in the first theatrical trailer I pretty much made my mind up that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve seen them all.  However, that’s just my ignorance talking.  Our story here is so much deeper and emotional than the norm.  Now that’s just sarcasm talking. Haha.  But seriously, the scrapping story of Southpaw goes a little something like this.

There’s a guy by the name of Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal).  He’s obviously a boxer and we find him at the height of his fame.  Like in the middle Rocky (Can’t help but make these comparisons) films, he has it all, a fancy house and a loving family, including his wife Maureen (McAdams).  And that’s where our trouble begins, not the boxing, but woman woes.  She wants him to quit so he can spend time with his daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence).  Doesn’t this sound like a plot in a Rocky film too?  I digress.  Billy temporarily postpones his upcoming match, but nevertheless (this is a movie after all) tragedy rocks Billy’s perfect world shortly thereafter.  His wife is murdered and Liela is taken away from him due to his instability, financially and chemically.

So when something so tragic like this happens to a beloved movie character what’s the one word that can describe what they can do?  Yep!  You guessed it.  It’s redemption!  And that’s exactly what Billy must do if he wants to win his daughter back.  How he does it and how our story resolves is all about that exact bumpy ride we take, which is beating around the bush for I’m not spoiling those beans.  Let’s just say it’s up to boxing trainer Titus “Tick” Wills (Whitaker) to put the “hope” back in Billy Hope, or maybe it’s the other way around.  You know how the budding mentor/student relationship paradigm can be.  It’s a b1tch sometimes how much we need each other in life, but just don’t know it.  Haha.


For the most part, I felt like I have seen this movie over and over before.  I knew every beat, plot point and twist before it was going to happen.  Yawn!  While that does not make for an exciting movie, it does help when your main stars deliver powerful performances that suck you in and have you rooting for them despite the eventual outcome you already know that will happen.  You understanding what I’m saying?  Except for the kid plot, if you’ve seen any Rocky film (in particular the third or fourth one), with the exception of the fifth, you’ve pretty much already seen Southpaw before.  It was uncanny how many resemblances there are, but I digress.  I’m not here to compare Southpaw to Rocky.  We all know what one is better.  Instead I want to focus solely on Southpaw and discussed what felt right and what didn’t work in my opinion.

Despite the predictable plot devices the strength in Southpaw rests squarely on the performances.  I’ve never been a big Rachel McAdams fan (save for this season of True Detective), but even she did good too.  However, let’s not fool ourselves, the real star of the show is Jake with Forest taking a back seat to his brilliance.  Jake takes the familiar plot and tiresome genre and molds it into something of his own.  He makes you feel every punch and bruise and tugs at your heart strings how much this guy truly loves his wife and kid to the point where he will do anything for them.  Forest, on the other hand, well he pretty much shines in everything he does so it was great to see him doing what he does best, excelling as an actor.  He’s come a long way since 1998’s Bloodsport, hasn’t he?  He sure has!

Southpaw is, for lack of a better way to explain it, a story of what happens when one moment you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re rock bottom.  Of course, since it’s a movie, this is all about redemption.  It’s also selfishly my favorite kind of redemption story too.  It’s like Rocky Balboa once said something along the line of it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep getting back up.  That’s how winning is done.  However, make no mistake about it, despite the emotional tale Southpaw tells, it’s still reeks very much of a product of unoriginal Hollywood, complete with the resolve too.  That’s what bothers me about Southpaw and ultimately prevents me from awarding it a higher score despite my lore for the subject matter.  I liked the film, but the Hollywood touches and parts I wish were done much differently prevented me from enjoying this to its fullest.  If nothing else, it does has me looking forward to Creed that much more.  That has to account for something, right?

So there you have it folks.  Gyllenhaal delivers a knockout performance, one of his best-to-date, but it’s not enough to save a screenplay that has been done over and over.  I suppose one can also give props and pay credit to Fuqua for surrounding himself with so much talent.  Nevertheless, however you slice it, Southpaw is a familiar tale, but make no mistake about it, this ain’t your daddy’s Rocky.  This is very much the same stripped down version with raw and emotional performances, but ultimately it’s very heavy underneath the weight of so many great boxing movies that have come before it (although kudos to the tension filled moments during the wrapping of the hands before the film’s first fight).  There’s main characters with tattoos and cell phones now, but strip all the modern technology and props away (including that Eminem song), you have nothing more than Rocky III here set in modern times (although the Rocky films have much superior training montages).  That’s not a bad thing though.  As a Rocky fan I’m just saying.  Ding, ding!  Fight!

Southpaw Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

2 Responses to “This Ain’t Your Daddy’s ‘Southpaw’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Thomas

    Southpaw is as blunt as a stiff jab to the face. Predictable from the get go.

  2. admin

    I agree. Save for the great performances you knew everything that was going to happen before it did.