Saturday, August 01, 2015

"Southpaw" panders to screenwriting conventions about "rooting interest", while Jake Gyllenhaal still looks "ruined"

Southpaw” (directed by Antoine Fuqua, 2015), unfortunately, does not refer to a left-handed ace pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzales).  No, this is Billy Hope, played by a ghostly Jake Gyllenhaal (more about that later), a boxer who is coaxed by his daunting wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) to retire after an eye injury in a prize match at Madison Square Garden. You wonder how anyone could be attracted to him in this shape.
At a charity event, a competitor Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) taunts him, creates a disturbance, and Miguel’s brother (Danny Henriquez) pulls a gun and fires.  Maureen gets show and her life ebbs away in his arms before the police arrive.
Billy goes downhill with alcohol and loses everything, including custody of his daughter after getting arrested on a drugs and weapons charge. Here is where the screenplay (written by Kurt Sutter) really starts pandering to all the Hollywood conventions about urgency and rooting interest.  You would normally expect a thorough police investigation and prosecution over the shooting of his wife (manslaughter at the very least), regardless of any protectionism within the world of the ring. 
Instead, Billy becomes more pathetic.  He turns to Titus Wills (Forrest Whitaker) for a place to train and have a menial job.  He moves out of his foreclosed mansion and lives in a tenement.  His daughter resists seeing him when he tries to visit the orphanage, under the supervision of Child Protective Services.  The audience is supposed to feel connected to him through his love for his daughter. It's so trite. 
The rest if the movie – his road back to the ring (in Las Vegas) – is predictable and choppy.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s body remains shaved, even plucked, a leftover from “Nightcrawler”, this time to provide room for ugly tattoos as well as for the convenience of tape.  He’s come a long way – down – from his roles of the likable teen in “October Sky”, “Moonlight Mile” and even “Donnie Darko”. But he progressed through "Jarhead" into a self-sacrificial machismo. It's funny how I don't want personally to make "inadequacy" all right, but then -- this. 

The official site is here. The Weinstein Company seems to have moved toward larger releases in a more conventional bloated Hollywood style, reminiscent of the 80s.  

I do remember other boxing movies, like "Cinderella Man",  I was never a fan of the multiple "Rocky" franchises, even if they took us to Philadelphia.
I saw the film before a fair Saturday night crowd at Angelika Mosaic.

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