My main reasons for skipping Southpaw are both monetary and personal. Usually I see two movies per week depending on what is out, but recently I have found my finances cannot handle anything more than one. Furthermore, certain things in my burgeoning professional life require my full attention. I would like to think I can focus on various projects, but as I have gotten older, the more I try the lesser the quality. My goal is to become a writer and if I want to git gud, I need to exploit my strengths while keeping in mind my weaknesses. The secondary reasons I chose to ignore Southpaw are more in regards to the film itself.
I hate sports movies about as much as Adam Sandler movies. I was young when I saw Miracle, a true story about America beating the Soviet Union at hockey. Sure, movies are predictable as I have said in my not-review of Pixels, but in Miracle I saw the same pattern of plot points reflected in others of the genre. There is always that dedicated coach or player on an apathetic team, inspiring them to do well until the moment of downfall, before they finally succeed. Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, When the Game Stands Tall, Pride, and Friday Night Lights follow this formula ad nauseam and Southpaw is no different.
You have the set-up of a fighter down on his luck after the loss of his wife, who then loses his child, and to prove he can be a better parent goes back to boxing for a fight that will certainly win back his life. I guarantee the film plays out almost exactly like that. While sports movies are not as bad as Sandler’s, the monotony of their plots is enough to deter my interest. Compounding my decision is the reason the movie exists in the first place.
Jake Gyllenhaal has made strides in his career with Prisoners and Nightcrawler (I did not see Enemy) and he deserves at a bit more recognition for his efforts. That being said, Southpaw feels like the cinematic equivalent of over compensation. Most average movies can be elevated by the work of their actors, writers, or direction. However, when an actor works as hard as Gyllenhaal for a generic sports film, it might as well be called Trying Too Hard: The Movie.
No disrespect, but if you have to break up with your girlfriend for training, maybe you should tone it down and look at the bigger picture. You are not Daniel Day Lewis or Joaquin Phoenix. Their transformations take such a toll they sign onto new projects between long periods of time. Going to such lengths for a boxing movie in under a year since your last film shows how desperate you are to be recognized, when people already know who you are.
Take for example Leonardo DiCaprio, a by and large character actor. In just about every one of his movies he has an accent and applies his signature intensity. At the same time, he goes the extra mile and takes control of the part. In Django Unchained he smashed a glass with his hand and bled all over. In the quaaludes scene from Wolf of Wall Street he used his foot to open a car door and sustained a back injury.
What I am getting at is a dedication to the process of acting. Nobody cares about how you get into character as long the end result is exceptional. DiCaprio is selective about his roles and goes for whatever will allow him to play a different character each time and at a consistent rate. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom was a character, but Billy Hope is no different than Rock Balboa, Jim Braddock, Maggie Fitzgerald, and Jake La Motta.
I do not hate the guy. I just find it disheartening that such hard work is wasted on a role that could have been done in his sleep. It does not make any sense for someone as talented as Jake Gylenhaal to put so much effort into a movie so ordinary. And for that reason I will not see Southpaw.