Sports drama Southpaw has had some rave reviews, particularly for Jake Gyllenhaal’s depiction of a down on his luck boxer. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson cast his eye over this recent offering.
There were maybe a dozen people at Vue on Shiprow for the Thursday night showing, which you could suppose is okay for the night time viewing of a film having already been out almost for a week.
The basics of the story are that Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is top of the pile as light heavyweight champion of the world.
He’s come a long way from the kid brought up in an orphanage, like his wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), in the notorious neighbourhood of Hell’s Kitchen.
They both attend a charity event particular to their upbringing, and he makes a candid if not particularly confident speech regarding his childhood and the good work the system did in its bid to make a positive impact upon his life.
After this a contender for Billy’s belt harasses him, goading with explicit remarks about Maureen. This descends into a scrap. The two are pulled off eachother, but not before his wife is accidentally shot during the skirmish by one of the challenger’s entourage.
This was a little bit evocative of Rocky III, to be honest. The mouthy challenger, the champion losing a loved one after a fracas; though in this case a wife, instead of trainer.
The comparisons to that series don’t end there, neither.
Billy’s subsequent fall from grace following Maureen’s death is akin to the money problems Rocky Balboa encounters at the beginning of Rocky V. Both end up moving from spacious mansions back to their old unpretentious stomping grounds, the places where they made it and made it from.
Even generally speaking Hope’s fighting style is one of sheer determination, persevering through punch after punch with minimal blocking and an inhuman granite chin. Sound like anyone?
During this time Billy loses the championship to an unremarkable fighter, who is then beaten by the said Colombian Clubber Lang.
Not only that, Hope lashes out at the referee and finds himself suspended from boxing. This is where the aforementioned money problems kick in, his income drying up.
His descent into drink and drugs mean the social services take away all that’s left for him to care about, his daughter. This begins a long process to get sober, resume boxing and regain eventual custody.
Trainer Titus Wills (Forest Whitaker) moulds Billy into a more defensive fighter, like when Apollo Creed takes Balboa back to the drawing room, fighting wise, again as said, in Rocky III.
Ultimately, come fight night, Hope learns not to be goaded, like was at the charity event; winning with a cool head, instead of losing all with a hot one.
As an aside, Rachel McAdams was slightly perplexing. Upon first inspection she looks like Laura Vandervoort of V remake fame. However, when she starred in About Time two years ago, onscreen she was more akin to a younger, fresh faced Hilary Swank.
You would be forgiven for thinking she was some sort of reptilian shape shifter, akin to her character in that very sci-fi series from 2009. Strange stuff.
Moving on, in all honesty the film was a bit sickly at first. The happy clappy family life came to a welcome end and the real hardship and heartbreak made for better dramatic viewing.
It did seem a bit ‘boxing movie cliché aplenty’ at times, but there was enough grit in it to not glorify the sport as some sort of cakewalk that some similar films unintentionally make it.