"Go Follow Him and Make Sure He Don't Break Nothing On the Way Out."
“Southpaw” has a lot of larger ideas buried underneath its formulaic story that are itching to come out, and are never fully explored. There’s the inherent hypocrisy involved in cheering a man for punching people in the face for a living, then being surprised when he acts violent and impulsive outside of the ring. There’s some meditation on the American foster system and whether it’s morally correct to keep a child with their natural born parents, even if they’re (however temporarily) putting them in danger. Hell, the whole film kicks off with Rachel McAdams’ character being shot…and they never discover who fired the gun. A member of Billy’s entourage gets hauled off for questioning and put in jail for a while (shout out to Malcom Mays, who went to my high school. Congrats, man!), but we don’t hear anything about his trial, just see him in the stands of the final fight later, obviously fine. The movie seems to be implying that Hope doesn’t care who the killer is because he shoulders the blame of her death himself but I as an audience member REALLY want to know who is responsible, or at least know that someone cares. Jake Gyllenhaal does a wonderful job as Billy Hope of taking focus and creating emotional truth, but this story feels like it could have been greater than just him. As it is, I’ve seen this story before, better told and with more focus.
Story issues aside, the film works best when the actors in it are given space to feel genuine feelings, and most of the leads are given that chance. However, the camera is constantly working against them; there are so many awkward close-up shots in this film that it’s hard to pay attention sometimes. When I have more of an idea of how many boogers are trapped in McAdams’ nose than what she’s actually saying, it’s a problem. I understand that this is probably meant to give the audience a more intimate perspective to the characters’ experiences, but it did not come off that way to me. Instead I felt claustrophobic, and often disoriented. It’s a shame; the actors, particularly Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker, are doing some lovely work, and I feel like I only saw a small part of it.
Come for the performances and the dynamic soundtrack, but “Southpaw” isn’t likely to wind up on any “Best Picture” lists this year. In the end, it’s a film that doesn’t take as many chances as its leading man.
-Drink whenever Billy breaks something
-Drink whenever someone screams
-Drink whenever someone mentions Maureen
-Drink when Billy does the opposite of what people tell him to do
-Drink when Billy asks to see his daughter.
This review was written by Hollis Beck (Krissy Pappau). "Southpaw" is produced by Escape Artists and Fuqua Films, and distributed by The Weinstein Company. The film is rated "R" with a runtime of 124 minutes.
Special thanks to my patrons, Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin, Caroline Kittredge Faustine and Antonia Beck. Your support helped make this post happen!