By Jess Fenton
16th August 2015

You’ve all undoubtedly seen "that photo" of Jake Gyllenhaal, released months ago - sweaty, bloody, ripped like a brick shithouse, not an ounce of body fat, dripping in anger and ready to bite someone's head off. Anyone who did catch a glimpse of it immediately thought "Whoa". Gyllenhaal is no stranger to transforming himself for a role, but this was an extreme case and we couldn’t wait to see the finished product and find out just what made him do that to himself.

‘Southpaw’ is the story of champion boxer Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) who physically but not mentally is nearing his career finish line. A child of “the system”, he’s had to fight all his life and not knowing much else, the idea of hanging up the gloves doesn’t exactly thrill him, but with a wife (Rachel McAdams) and daughter (Oona Laurence) to think about it’s an idea he has to consider. When unexpected tragedy hits, Billy finds himself with no career, no money and his daughter taken away from him, so Billy does what Billy has to do - fight, to get it all back again, this time with the reluctant aid of veteran trainer Tick Wills (Forrest Whitaker).


Directed by Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’), this tale is rife with redemption, guilt, love, loss, forgiveness, revenge, betrayal, loyalty, it’s all there... on paper, but on the screen, not so much. The sadness and empathy is there, they’re the easy marks and the tear-jerking moments anyone with a camera can hit - but as for the rest, well, that responsibility it would seem was forced onto the shoulders of the film's highly accomplished and extremely talented cast. Don’t get me wrong, they all turn in highly emotional performances, but there were just too many gaps in the script to be filled, no matter who you are or how skilled an actor.

It’s all there... on paper, but on the screen, not so much.

Cleverly, upon the film's pending release, the filmmakers are trying to highlight that fact that the film’s boxing sequences used no stunt-doubles, they’re all Gyllenhall, all the time - this is of course an impressive feat, for Gyllenhaal, but it still leaves the filmmakers in the wind scrambling for excuses as to why this possible "Oscar darling" was served to them on a platter and yet they still managed to mess it up. The film’s climax fight sequence should have been the most emotionally-charged cry-fest designed to make you leap from your seat cheering and shadow box along with your new favourite hero - but instead you’re bored, wishing you’d worn a watch to see how much time is left and wondering where all the tension and the revenge plotline had gone.

Predictable and sporting performances the film itself doesn’t deserve, the standout and owner of all (if any) praise ‘Southpaw’ receives is solely Gyllenhaal’s.

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