By Darlene Donloe
Jake Gyllenhaal knows how to inhabit a role.
One of the industry’s most versatile actors, in recent years Academy Award® nominee Gyllenhaal has spread his creative wings to bring to life some memorable characters.
With each film he ups his game. Whether it’s Zodiac, Enemy, End of Watch, Brokeback Mountain, Source Code, Prisoners, or last year’s Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal is effective and affecting.
His latest entry is as Billy ‘The Great’ Hope, the reigning Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion, in the drama, Southpaw, in theaters nationwide July 24.
Hope is riding high. He has it all – a great career, an envious lifestyle, a beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and an adorable young daughter (Oona Laurence). The family dynamic the actors bring forth is part of what makes this film believable. The family seems authentic. There is a sense of closeness, familiarity and love.
His life takes a disastrous turn when he has a confrontation with one of his boxing rivals. During that same time his lifelong manager and friend (Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson) leaves him to manage that rival. The snowball going downhill continues to gain speed when Hope’s money runs out, leaving him destitute.
If that were not enough, he loses custody of his daughter, leaving him rock bottom.
Eventually he takes a job as a janitor at a local gym run by Tick Willis (Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker). Willis just happens to train boxers. After much coaxing he reluctantly agrees to train Hope for a chance to regain his title.
(l-r) Jake Gyllenhaal and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson
It’s not easy, but Hope, determined to regain custody of his daughter, agrees to the unconventional way Willis trains. Hope is used to fighting from a sense of rage. Willis teaches him to fight effectively with strategy and finesse.
Still, Hope finds that redemption is a hard rock traveled. His daughter, filled with disappointment at her father’s inability to get her out of the system and bring her home quickly, refuses to see him. His has also lost respect with his fellow fighters who consider him a has-been.
Gyllenhaal brings his A game to this film. He delivers an intense, sometimes painful performance. He shows vulnerability, disappointment, angst, terror and, of course, agony.
The always exceptional Whitaker is a gem. He adds just the right amount of gruffness to the character.
Jackson plays a slippery character. Unfortunately you can see the slick coming from a mile away.
Naomie Harris (Skyfall) plays a no-nonsense social worker. Her performance is noteworthy.
Director Antoine Fuqua has assembled a stellar cast and crafted a fine, energetic film that is raw and gutsy.
Southpaw is a knockout film that should do well at the box office. With Gyllenhaal, Whitaker, Rachel McAdams and Fuqua in the mix
Southpaw, in theaters July 24, is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Rachel McAdams, Rita Ora, Naomi Harris, Oona Laurence and Victor Ortiz.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Southpaw gets an E (excellent).
Southpaw is Rated R; Runtime: 119 Minutes
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://southpawfilm.com/