Jake Gyllenhaal is a very good actor–in fact, he probably deserved much more attention for his starring role in 2014’s “Nightcrawler”. And “Southpaw”, opening wide this coming Friday, July 24th, should be something I’m chomping at the bit for. Considering, for example, that I did some amateur boxing in my teens, and that I’m still an avid fisticuffs fan. But, I’m wary of Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw”, because the trailer makes it appear so by-the-numbers. The rise, the fall, the comeback. The death of a major character…the training…the ridiculously over-the-top bouts. 1976’s “Rocky” was an exceptional film, but look at the damage it, and its multiple sequels, has done. And couldn’t director Antoine Fuqua, who has exhibited a level of both talent and inconsistency (“Training Day”, “The Equalizer”), located a more reasonable plot path?
Hey, I do love this cast. I mean, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, real-life former welterweight titlist, Victor Ortiz–along with Mr. Gyllenhaal. What’s not to love? But if the above trailer doesn’t give you pause, you haven’t been paying attention at any point over the last four decades. A nice selection of boxing films within those last 40 years have been flamboyant and exciting. The vast majority of them have also been full of shit. “Southpaw” appears to have been pumped up for maximum adrenaline, and I sincerely hope that my instincts are wrong. With pulsating music from Eminem, including his single “Phenomenal”, and the last completed score from the recently deceased ,James Horner, I’ll hold out on the official decision until after I actually see it. But intuition is not leaving me hopeful–we will soon see.