Southpaw tells the story of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), the undefeated professional lightweight boxing champion and his battle for redemption.
Growing up in an orphanage was hard on Billy. Whilst he acquired the passion and eventually the skills for boxing, he never truly understood how to care for people.
That was until he met his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams), who later became his unofficial agent, negotiating his contracts and scheduling fights. They became the ultimate fighting team. This led to Billy’s success in the ring.
However following an altercation with a rival boxer after a charity event all that changes. Before Billy knows it his wife is lying on the ground covered in blood having been shot by one of his rival’s posse, fighting for her life. But this is one battle that the duo cannot win. Maureen dies leaving Billy to care for their daughter Leila (Oona Laurence).
After several DUI’s and violent outburst Leila is taken away from her father and placed into care.
In order to see his daughter again Billy must prove that he is a decent member of society, that he can provide for daughter, care for her and most importantly control his temper.
He tries to throw himself back into the game and asks his manager Jordan Mains (50 Cent) to set up a fight. But without Maureen and Leila he’s a mess. When he finally loses it and punches the referee his licence is taken away.
Without the high-paying fights signed up Billy loses his fortune quicker than he gained it. He is left with nothing. His snake of a manager tries to take advantage of him whilst he’s weak, something that Maureen would never have tolerated.
Billy is granted visitation rights but Leila refuses to see him, blaming the fighter for her mother’s untimely death.
With nothing left to lose the boxer starts to train again. He enlists the help of Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) a coach at a local training centre. Tick manages the impossible, he teaches the champion a whole new way to fight, how to block and more importantly how to deliver that knock-out blow.
Tick also gives his new protégé a job at the centre so that he can start to support himself and win back Leila. It works and soon enough Billy is reunited with his daughter.
Now that Billy’s back on top Jordan Mains reappears offering Billy the chance a starring role in the fight of the century. Billy versus Migeul ‘Magic’ Escobar (Miguel Gomez) whose entourage killed Billy’s wife.
Muscle, power and strength will mean fame and fortune for the victor. With his ban lifted can the once great boxer redeem himself and win back his title, and the love of his daughter? There’s never been so much on the line.
Whilst it is gripping, it’s hardly in the same category as The Fighter, Warrior or even the classic Rocky movies. Yes Gyllenhaal is jacked, but that isn’t enough to carry the movie. McAdams plays her part well, albeit short-lived.
The relationship between Billy and Leila is underplayed, however the one between the fighter and Tick was just right, part confidant, part master Whitaker excels in his role.
Whilst the action shots heightened the energy in the movie, the first person scenes mid-fight were nauseating.
People love a rags to riches story, but despite the added muscle Southpaw is punching well below its weight. It’s jam-packed with wrestling movie clichés: the orphanage upbringing, the devoted wife, the unconventional trainer and the young daughter he must win back. It’s basically a suped-up 1930’s boxing melodrama, a mere bantamweight.
By Ruth Walker