Thursday, 6 August 2015

Southpaw (4 Stars)

I don't like boxing as a sport. I never have. It's too brutal. I much prefer to watch wrestling, because it doesn't look as real, if you know what I mean. In boxing matches two men batter one another with the deliberate intention of knocking one another unconscious. The blows are to the head and do real damage, despite the gloves. As any boxer will tell you, the gloves are to protect the hands, not the face.

Nevertheless, I went to see this film at Cineworld with my friends from the film club. After all, it stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker, two of my favourite actors. The film does contain well choreographed fights that are realistic enough to make me flinch, but rather than being a film about boxing it's a human story, a film about a man who triumphs over adversity.

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the undefeated light heavyweight boxing champion. His wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) can barely watch his fights, because he's always badly battered before laying the knockout punch. Billy's strength is in his attack, not his defence.

At a charity event a drunken brawl breaks out in which the brother of a rival boxer accidentally shoots Maureen dead. Broken up by the loss, Billy finds comfort in drugs and alcohol. At his next title match he loses the match due to being in a bad condition, and he even attacks the referee, which leads to him being suspended for a year. Billy loses his home and custody of his daughter. This is the shock he needs to start over again, fighting his way back up from the bottom.

It's a beautiful moving film. At times I felt my eyes moisten. I can't give it a full five stars because the boxing scenes were too brutal for me. Many of my readers might think differently. Please leave comments in the box below. If you're visiting the main page and don't see a comment box, click on the word "comment" or "comments" immediately below the post to open the box.

I have the greatest respect for Jake Gyllenhaal and the extreme measures he takes to prepare himself for his films. In order to make "Nightcrawler" last year he starved himself to make himself look anorexic. Then he had to make "Southpaw", so he put the weight back on and went into training to build up muscle. He hardly looks like the same person in the two films.

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