Pugilistic machismo takes centre stage

Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal PA/Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Company
Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal PA/Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Company

SOUTHPAW (15, 124 mins) Drama/Action/Romance. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Naomie Harris, Miguel Gomez. Director: Antoine Fuqua.

Released: July 24 (UK & Ireland)

Director Antoine Fuqua, screenwriter Kurt Sutter and leading man Jake Gyllenhaal clearly believe in their hard-slugging sports drama about a one-time boxing legend, who hits the comeback trail in order to win back the custody of his young daughter.

Fuqua orchestrates testosterone-fuelled skirmishes inside the ring with brio, Sutter trades verbal blows with his snappy dialogue and Gyllenhaal trained intensively for six months with fight choreographer Terry Claybon to replicate the muscular physicality and snarling mentality of a light heavyweight.

Ironically, for a film that packs a wallop during briskly edited bouts, Southpaw delivers only a few light jabs to our heart strings, almost all of which are landed by 12-year-old actress Oona Laurence.

At 124 minutes, Fuqua’s cliche-riddled contender expects us to go 12 rounds with training montages and a euphoric Eminem soundtrack before the obligatory final showdown of brawn over brains.

Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is a giant of the boxing ring, who celebrates retaining his championship belt with his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and precocious daughter Leila (Laurence).

Maureen becomes concerned about the toll on her husband’s body and pleads with him to hang up his boxing gloves for good.Tragedy strikes and Leila is wrested away from Billy by the courts after he sinks into a mire of alcohol-sodden despair.

In order to reunite his fractured family, Billy must prove to child services officer Angela Rivera (Naomie Harris) that he can be a responsible parent.

To earn enough money to provide a home for Leila, Billy heads back into the boxing ring to fight his nemesis, Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez).

Thus the underdog begins the slow and painful journey back to peak physical fitness with the help of old school trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker).

Southpaw is a rousing parable of triumph over adversity that won’t knock out any fans of The Champ, Rocky and other displays of pugilistic big screen machismo.

Gyllenhaal looks in peak physical shape, but mumbles his lines, some of which are incomprehensible.

RATING: 6/10