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Southpaw

Year: 2015
Production Co: Escape Artists
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Kurt Sutter
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Curtis 50 Cent Jackson, Naomie Harris, Victor Ortiz
Spoiler
Spoiler!

A lot of boxing movies have the makings to be great, but what holds many of them back is that there have been so many great boxing movies already.

Southpaw has the makings of a great, gritty boxing drama, but it contains too many familiar genre tropes that you've seen a hundred times and handles them too clumsily.

If it's not Forest Whitaker's grizzled, wise old trainer from the inner city (he's seen as a great actor but boy, can he chew some scenery), it's the training montage that opens the third act – scenes like it forever spoiled by the temptation to sing 'We need a Montage' from Team America: World Police.

The other problem is the character of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). Even after he's on the path to redemption and we're supposed to care about him he's often so reprehensible it's hard to sympathise with him. To be quite honest he doesn't deserve to win back the love of the daughter (Oona Laurence) that he's lost.

When he finally wins her back (don't tell us you're surprised), the moral of the story becomes that your children should only love you if you're a champion athlete.

We open on a high note with Billy having just won his most recent fight. He's swimming in money and has the love of his beautiful wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter. Surely nothing could go wrong.

But it's at a charity event that the worst happens. No spoilers (even though the trailer essentially reveals the whole movie) but it starts a downward spiral of Billy losing everything. We then hop on the oft-trod athlete redemption bandwagon, complete with the Yoda-like mentor with a past and all the other boxing movie clichés you know.

None of the criticisms above should take away from Gyllenhaal's performance or physical transformation after the weedy creep we saw in Nightcrawler. It's another great role for an actor of his calibre to play the terminally angry, mumbling and uneducated boxer. He just needed different window dressing and a fresh story to live in.

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