Movie Review: Southpaw

We knew something was up with the Southpaw screening I attended because it was on a Sunday night (weekend screenings are very rare), and everyone's guess was that Eminem would be showing up, since he performed some of the songs on the soundtrack. Instead, we got Eminem plus Jake Gyllenhaal, which was great (I wish I wasn't sitting in the last row!), and the two of them spoke for about five minutes before the movie (you can read more about it here). It was a fun intro to the movie, and also one that most cities can't say they experienced.

Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is on top of the boxing game. His beautiful wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), is there to support him, as well, and their young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). After a brawl during a hotel charity event goes wrong, however, Billy soon finds himself losing most of the things he cares about, and he's also suspended from boxing for a year. His daughter Leila goes into the "system," of what he himself is a product of, and he has to clean up his act in order to get her back. He takes a job at a small gym (Will's Gym) working for Mr. Wills himself (Forest Whitaker), and he slowly starts to get his life back.

Gyllenhaal and Whitaker were phenomenal in this film, and I hope that they both receive Oscar nominations. This isn't surprising, as Gyllenhaal always seems to absorb himself in whatever character he plays - I gave last year's Nightcrawler 4.5 out of 5 stars for that very reason - but it also shows he's a chameleon and can play various parts that are completely different from each other. Rachel McAdams was good here too, as his wife, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson has a small role as a slimy businessman who wants to always be in the winner's camp, so to speak. Oona Laurence, a relative newcomer (most known for playing Matilda in the Broadway production recently), also shines as Gyllenhaal's daughter in the film.

Yes, see this movie. It's rated R for a reason, as it has a lot of language and can be intense at times, but it's also definitely worth seeing, especially if you like boxing or "underdog" movies. I wish Eminem and Gyllenhaal had stayed for a Q&A after, but apparently Gyllenhaal had flown in just for this and had to get back to New York. In sports movies, you can tell if a screening crowd really likes the film if they clap or cheer after pivotal wins in the film, and this happened here; based on that approval rating, the movie should do well in theaters.

Southpaw is in theaters today, July 24th, and is rated R with a runtime of 123 minutes. 4.5 stars out of 5.

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