By: Nathan MacKinnon
If you want to create anything with heart, you’ll need three things: blood, sweat, and tears. A simple concept, but often a difficult one to capture. Even in film, these essential elements must be found, or you end up having a stagnant and childish movie. An excellent example of these elements working in unison is Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw, a tale of redemption, starring boxing as the driving force behind everything.
Championship fighter Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is destroyed, then asked to rebuild himself using the only thing he knows, boxing. Gyllenhaal does his very best to take an otherwise overused character and make him seem new, and this is accomplished from the very beginning to the last punch, because the audience sees Billy Hope as a flawed, yet lovable, character. Aided by the performance of Forest Whitaker who plays Titus Wills, the viewer seamlessly runs behind Hope, rooting for his every success. Surprisingly, the protagonist, Billy Hope, is in fact, his own worst enemy. The film ends with a final bout, hero against villain, which may be corny, but it is still entertaining to watch.
The film does struggle at times to propel itself forward, but it’s a very slow burn. That’s not always a bad thing, but in a film centred around fighting, it’s not beneficiary. Don’t run to this film to see anything technically stunning or outrageously compelling. Watch this film to feel a character who is literally thrown down to rock bottom: BLOODY. See him struggle to fight his real and fake demons: SWEAT. See a character put everything he loves on the line: TEARS. That is where Antoine and Gyllenhal do well, creating a protagonist worth something better than himself. So, maybe just this once, I’m gonna disregard the cliches and lacking technicalities, and see someone truly struggle, then succeed.