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‘Southpaw’ Review: Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker & Rachel McAdams

Jake Gyllenhaal is easily one of the best actors working today. His last few roles as a committed detective in Prisoners, an intoxicating and underrated performance in one of last year’s best Enemy and a slimy night crime scene cameraman in the incredible Nightcrawler were some of the best performances by any actor of the last five years. It’s a shame none of these performances were recognized by the Academy. Now in director Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw, Gyllenhaal has amazed again as champion boxer Billy Hope. The story of a boxer overcoming challenges may have been done before, but its Gyllenhaal’s transformative performance that’s makes this film incredibly raw, honest, emotional and worthwhile.

Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the reigning Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World. Billy has it all with his lovely and supportive wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and his sweet young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). After an unfortunate event and after his longtime fancy pants manager Jordan (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) leaves him behind, Billy finds himself suffering in debt and needing to start over. When he gets a low-end job at a local boxing gym, owner and trainer Titus “Tick” Wills agrees to train him to help build him back up to the top.

Paying a bit of homage to the Rocky films and Raging Bull, Southpaw is probably the best boxing film since 2010’s The Fighter. The film is a true showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal and shows the struggle between a boxer’s professional life and how it blends with his home life.

southpaw rachel mcadams

It’s already been said that Gyllenhaal transcends in this film. This chameleonic actor nails this character physically and mentally. Though at time the story tends to be a bit clichéd, Gyllenhaal manages to elevate Kurt Sutter’s screenplay and make it game changing. Rachel McAdams is just lovely as Maureen or “Mo,” Billy’s loyal, caring but no-nonsense wife. It’s incredible what McAdams can do in the screen time that she has. Oona Laurence gives one of the best youth performances of the year as Leila. Her scenes with Gyllenhaal are gut-wrenching and raw, making her one of the more memorable supporting performances we have seen this year.

The performances are easily the stellar part of Southpaw, making up for the been there done that story. Gyllenhaal gives one of the best performances of the year and of his career. It would’ve been interesting to see Eminem in this role, but Fuqua should be thrilled with Gyllenhaal’s performance. Predicting an Oscar nomination for Gyllenhaal seems far-fetched at this point, but he so deserves it.

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