Sunday, 4 October 2015

Film Review - Southpaw

Left is Right
Film: Southpaw
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Duration: 2 hrs 4 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2

 Southpaw can be described as a formula film but it is a story that is very well told. Films involving sports follow a certain arc and this one is no different. We have seen a similar plot in the likes of Cinderella Man and since the days of Rocky and Raging Bull (and before that Champion and Requiem for a Heavyweight) the bar for films with boxing as the backdrop has been set high.

Due credit to director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen and the forthcoming remake of The Magnificent Seven) for keeping things tight and simple. And he also has Jake Gyllenhaal who has moved into the top orbit with films like End of watch, Prisoners and Night crawler. If he keeps going in the same mould, he could well end up as one of the best actors of this generation. 

In Southpaw, he plays boxer Billy Hope – age is not on his side but he still packs a punch. He has everything that one can hope for – money, fame and beautiful and caring wife (Rachel McAdams) and an adoring daughter (Oona Laurence, giving one of the best performances by a child actress in recent times). Bruised and battered after a fight even though he wins the title, his wife wants him to call it quits. But he goes by his instincts and doesn’t have the inclination to plan his career.  That’s when tragedy strikes and loses everything he has got – professionally and personally. 

Forest Whitaker plays Tick Wills a boxing coach who helps him pick up the pieces and even though you exactly how that angle is going to pan out, Fuqua keeps you interested in the proceedings.  

The film balances the quotient of sports and human emotions quite well, it kicks off with a fight at Madison square garden and finishes with a crucial fight at Caesars Palace in Vegas. In between comes the human element as Billy loses custody of his daughter. The admirable part is that the screenplay though simple, manages to tug your heart strings with the father-daughter relationship.  There was one particular scene which was remarkably shot – the little girl in child care custody refuses to see her father. The camera is placed at a very low level at first and then when it cuts to the next shot, it is from a distance at the height of the ceiling. 

The average script rises above the ordinary because one, the direction and two the acting. You care about Billy Hope because of the conviction with which Gyllenhaal essays the role. Whether it is the physical looks of a boxer or emoting desperation about his daughter, he is brilliant.  Rachel McAdams plays her part with conviction while Forest Whitaker is reliable as always. The little Oona Laurence matches the older actors in every scene and she has it in her to go the distance. 

In all likely hood you will hear more about the film when the awards season starts because this is an above average product from the Hollywood factory. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 2nd Aug 2015

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