I’m not the biggest sports- and/or boxing-movie-fan (exceptions like “Rocky” obviously prove the rule), and thus was a little reluctant to watch “Southpaw” in the cinema. Turns out, I needn’t have worried, since it isn’t really about boxing, at least not predominantly. It’s rather a character study of a broken man who uses boxing as means to an end, namely to put his life back together after a series of knock-downs.
Granted, it isn’t really revolutionary. Also, the fridging of his wife (something to frown upon in itself) was handled rather badly, since they disposed of her in an overly dramatic (and also rather forced) way. They also seemed to go overboard with the personal tragedies (some self-inflicted) that befall him, not just stopping at his wife, but also taking away his home and his daughter. That was laid on a little thick, if you ask me. And overall, the first half of the movie didn’t really manage to grip me. However, once he starts on his way to redemption, that changes. I loved the friendship that built between Billy and Tick, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance was as great as always, and after overdoing the drama in the first half, I was positively surprised that they refrained from a couple of clichéd scenes that, after the overdramatized beginning, I very much came to expect (like Leila running to the seat that was set aside for her mother). The final fight was very well shot, and quite gripping (even though I had a strong indication of how it will end, which was proven right), and the ending was absolutely perfect. Many movies miss that perfect moment to fade out, but here, they did it right, ending on a note that once again hammers home the point that even though boxing plays a vital part in “Southpaw”, it wasn’t really what this movie was about. And even though I wouldn’t exactly call this a modern classic of the genre – mostly because the great second half couldn’t compensate fully for the rather lousy, clichéd beginning – it’s nevertheless a solid, worthy entry in the pantheon of boxing-themed films.