Southpaw, rated R
Jake Gyllenhaal follows up his excellent performance as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler with another superb performance as Billy Hope, the light heavyweight champion of the world. Billy is married to Maureen, or Mo, played by Rachel McAdams. They met when she was 12, both being orphans and foster children in the New York City system. They now live in a mansion in New York City with their 10-year old daughter Leila, who was played by Oona Laurence in a strong performance. He is surrounded by a posse of friends who are living a good life by being associated with the champ.
Mo is concerned with the increasing beatings that Billy is taking in his fights and pleads for him to take some time off, against the wishes of his manager Jordan Mains (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). After speaking at a charity event, Billy is taunted by an up-and-coming boxer, Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez). When Escobar makes comments about Mo, things escalate and Billy can’t control his anger, leading to a brawl which will change everything for him.
Forest Whitaker, one of our better actors, delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Titus “Tick” Wills, a former boxer. Tick now runs a boxing gym in Harlem, serving as a mentor to many boys. He develops a close relationship with Billy. Naomie Harris plays Angela Rivera, a Child Protective Services case worker.
This powerful film contains themes of family, responsibility, humility, loyalty, friendship, pain, anger, revenge and redemption. Though Tick drinks too much, we see that he has a relationship with God, at one difficult point telling Billy “God must have some kind of plan to teach me some kind of lesson. I just can’t figure out what it is.”
The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua and Kurt Sutter. Rapper Eminem was originally pegged to play the Billy Hope character. Eminem does provide some of the film’s music, notably the track “Phenomenal”.
In addition to the boxing violence that is expected, there is a significant amount of adult language included in both the dialogue and in some of the music featured in the film. The language will be enough to keep some away from this film and the fine acting performances from Gyllenhaal, Whitaker and Laurence.
James Horner provided the film’s score. This was his final work as he was killed in a plane crash on June 22.