‘Southpaw’ Review Roundup: Boxing Drama Earns Mixed Notices
Antoine Fuqua‘s Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a light heavyweight champion boxer named Billy Hope.
Hope is at the top of his career, and married to the love of his life Maureen (Rachel McAdams) with whom he’s raising his bright daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) when everything he’s built starts to crumble. Southpaw follows Hope as he desperately tries to pull himself back up and into the ring. His comeback forces him to start from the bottom if he wants a shot at another title or another chance at being a father to his little girl.
Despite the hype surrounding Southpaw, due in part to Gyllenhaal’s latest physical transformation, critics are only giving it a half-hearted stamp of approval. Though Gyllenhaal throws himself into the boxer role and the film takes great pains to make the boxing seem authentic, reviews indicate that Southpaw suffers from its contrived plotting.
“If you admire the shameless in cinema, if you consider yourself a connoisseur of contrivance, you’re going to have to tip your glove in the direction of “Southpaw,” a boxing melodrama so gleefully preposterous attention must be paid…. “Southpaw” is larded with the kind of improbabilities that would have impressed even the great contrivers of Hollywood past. Yet, that said, “Southpaw” is so logic-defying it takes on a Frankenstein life of its own, especially with as energetic and focused an action maestro as Fuqua in charge.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
“The plotting is somehow both flat-footed and operatic in its absurdity. Character arcs are tangled, flattened and foreshortened. Common sense is knocked silly. But Mr. Fuqua has never been a director to let ridiculousness get in the way of visceral action. With a new Eminem song tucked into one of the montages, an old-style melodramatic score by James Horner (one of his last, sadly; he died in June and the film is dedicated to his memory) and plenty of muscular brawling, “Southpaw” is effective without being terribly convincing.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“Call him “Joltin’ Jake” Gyllenhaal, because the actor adds needed presence and punch to the melodrama of Southpaw…. Instead of a lot of dialogue, the character is a study in emotional extremes. In some of the most heartwrenching scenes with Laurence, Gyllenhaal exudes an unspoken frenzy while in the ring he lashes out in screaming fury. While Southpaw doesn’t do anything innovative with the punch-drunk formula — there’s even a rousing final match, leaving you exhausted by the end — Gyllenhaal and Whitaker are real heavyweights who give the feature a winning combo.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today
“The orphan-turned-ex-con-turned-light-heavyweight champion Gyllenhaal plays is named Billy Hope — a sign of the degree of subtlety in Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter’s screenplay, wherein every plot turn is as telegraphed as a tomato can’s jab. I didn’t care: Enough of it felt earned to me that Southpaw wins on points. With movies and TV inching ever closer to the meta singularity that will render all earnestness extinct, a film that doubles down on performance and dares to tell a simple story simply feels vaguely punk rock.” – Chris Klimek, NPR
Southpaw is currently in wide release.