Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the height of his boxing career, is the undefeated champion of the world in his category. After each gruelling match, he drags his broken, bruised body home to his doting wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and adorable daughter Leila (Oona Laurence).
The two are the apples of his eye and his wife is the love of his life. Things take a drastic turn and on one terrible day, tragedy strikes and Billy loses everything: his career, his lifestyle, and his family. Trapped by grief, depression and his grim circumstances, Billy must fight hard to get back on his feet and recover what he can of his old life.
Now, before I go overboard with just how great I think Gyllenhaal is in this film, it’s not all that rosy. The storyline, just like the fighters in the film, throws some killer punches, even though some scenes are a bit of a cliché. There is so much raw emotion depicted here it is not hard to get drawn in. You feel the pain when his wife dies, the shame and anger, the triumph of winning a fight and the warmth of the restoration of a father and daughter relationship.
Having watched other boxing films which sadly all followed “the boxer loses the love of his life, hits rock bottom and then meets a trainer who helps him get his life back together” plot, my initial reaction was, “hey, I have watched this film before!” But like an unexpected blow the positive elements of South Paw will leave you technically knocked out. Nothing else will exist once you get over that aspect of feeling like you have watched this film before. It may have a similar storyline to ‘Rocky’, and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ but the edgy cast and scenes will leave you with a whole new out-of-the-box experience.
South Paw is a compelling, touching and surprisingly truthful story with a great cast. The chemistry between them is impeccable even with McAdams who was in the film for the first five minutes only. She shows the audience why Billy felt so lost when he lost her to a stray bullet. She is very much the loving and supportive pillar a partner should be.
In a complete turnaround from his usual roles as the knight in shining armor and the guy that gets the girl, Gyllenhaal gives his all in what I feel is his best role yet. Hats off to him and Laurence who make this cliché of a story easy to watch. Though Fuqua and Sutter may have not made the perfect soup they sure did their best to give us a film about real boxing as everything that has to do with boxing is portrayed. We have a shady money and power hungry boxing promoter in rapper now turned actor Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Forest Whitaker plays the noble uplifter, a hope restorer and father figure, Tick Wills, who motivates Billy Hope to be a responsible father.
It is a very good story about redemption, one that you won’t mind sharing in the experience and emotions. Pumped-up action scenes and mellowed-down tear jerking moments make South Paw wonderful to watch. Also thrown in is a really awesome soundtrack giving you more than your money’s worth. Enjoy!