Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Antoine Fuqua|
|Written by||Kurt Sutter|
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||John Refoua|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company|
|Box office||$92 million|
Southpaw is a 2015 American sports drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Kurt Sutter and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams. The film follows a boxer who sets out to get his life back on track after losing his wife in an accident and his young daughter to protective services. The film was released on July 24, 2015, by The Weinstein Company. The film received mixed reviews from critics, while Gyllenhaal and Laurence's performances received positive reviews.
The film marked one of the last films to be scored by James Horner, and one of three posthumous releases to feature his music (the other two being The 33 and The Magnificent Seven). The film and the film's soundtrack album are dedicated to his memory.
Billy "The Great" Hope is an undefeated professional boxer living in the suburbs of New York City with his wife Maureen and their daughter Leila. Both Billy and Maureen grew up together as orphans in Hell's Kitchen.
Billy fights against Darius Jones (Cedric D. Jones) at Madison Square Garden. Maureen gets scared as Billy takes several horrific hits to the face, resulting in him bleeding profusely out of his left eye. Billy then employs a brutal, fast-paced fighting style against Jones. Swiftly but surely, Billy knocks Jones down, winning the match and retaining the undisputed WBA/IBF/WBC/WBO Light Heavyweight title. Despite the victory, he suffers nasty injuries and continuous bleeding. Afterwards, as the press surrounds Billy, a younger upstart boxer, Miguel "Magic" Escobar (Miguel Gomez), comes in and demands Billy to fight him in the ring, claiming Billy's never been hit by a real man.
Billy and Maureen go home to their daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). While she also doesn't like how much he gets hurt, she still supports him the same way her mom does. Maureen expresses her fears for Billy's safety and thinks he should quit while he's ahead or he'll end up punch-drunk in two years. He understands, and they make love.
Billy and Maureen go to a fundraiser ball where Billy gives a speech, acknowledging Jordan, his boys, Leila, and Maureen. Escobar is in attendance as well, and as Billy is leaving, Escobar goads him by sexually insulting Maureen and saying he will take his titles away from him. Maureen tells Billy to let it go but Billy's anger gets the better of him, leading to a brawl. One of Billy's boys, Gabe (Malcom Mays) takes out a gun, but a shot rings out without him pulling the trigger. Billy looks over and sees that Maureen's been hit. Miguel is equally horrified and sees it was his brother Hector that fired the shot. He takes Hector's gun and hides it before Hector flees. Billy holds Maureen and begs her to hold on, but she slowly succumbs to the gunshot wound.
Billy begins abusing alcohol and drugs while obsessively searching for Hector. Billy's friend Jon Jon (Beau Knapp) goes over to try to talk to him. Knowing what he's going to do, he tries to stop him. Billy then threatens Jon Jon at gunpoint and tells him to go away, blaming him for Maureen's death. He eventually gets a tip about Hector's whereabouts but only finds Hector's drug-addicted wife Maria, and leaves after learning Hector is a father. Billy meets with his manager Jordan (50 Cent), who says Billy is losing money and may need to sell the house. Jordan then books Billy a fight against Kalil Turay. During the fight, Billy gets beaten up so badly that his corner throws in the towel. Out of anger Billy then headbutts the ref in the face. Billy is suspended for a year, leaving him with no income and payment damages to the ref. Furthermore, the networks sue him for breach of contract, leaving him in debt and his house and belongings being repossessed.
Billy continues to spiral out of control. One night, he runs his car into the tree outside his home. The alarm wakes Leila up, and she goes downstairs to find Billy lying on the floor, bleeding. She cries for help and then calls 911. Billy wakes up in the hospital and is told that Leila is put in the care of Child Protective Services officer Angela Rivera (Naomi Harris). Due to his reckless behavior, he is deemed unfit to be taking care of Leila, and loses custody. Billy tries to hug Leila as she's being taken away, but the guards hold him back while Leila cries for him, saying she doesn't want to go. With nowhere left to go, a forgiving Jon Jon drives Billy to the Wills Gym where he meets former boxer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), who is blind in one eye after his last fight left him injured. Billy wants Tick to get him back on his feet, but Tick knows about his drinking problems and drug use and is hesitant to train him. He offers Billy a janitorial job, but Billy refuses.
Billy goes to the Child Services building and meets with the social worker, Angela Rivera. He admits that he's a mess but he still wants to see Leila. He is allowed to see her, but she tells him "he fucked up", and lets him know it's his fault they're both in this situation. Billy returns to the gym and accepts the janitorial job. While working there, he befriends a kid named Hoppy (Skylan Brooks), who is also an aspiring boxer. He learns that Hoppy has trouble at home with his father abusing his mother, which he reports to Tick, with whom continues to bond with.
As he continues to make amends in his life, Billy tries to visit Leila. She doesn't want to see him at first, but over time his persistence wins her back and she eventually allows him to see her. After participating and winning a charity match against a young up & comer, Billy gets a visit from Jordan, who now manages Miguel. Jordan wants to put on a fight between the two men within six weeks, knowing that Billy will not have enough time to train. Billy thinks it could be his shot back to the top and wants Tick to train him for a comeback, but Tick thinks Billy just wants revenge and refuses to train him.
Billy visits Leila again to tell her about the fight. She wants to see him fight but he says no, and she, in tearful hysterics, hits him repeatedly, blaming him and saying it should have been him who died, not Maureen. Billy goes back to the gym to find Tick furiously hitting a punching bag. He tells Billy that Hoppy is dead after he tried to defend his mother from his father, before his father shot him. Tick breaks down and laments the fact that he couldn't save the boy. This inspires him to step up and help Billy train and get back into shape for the upcoming fight.
Noting his efforts to turn his life around, the judge grants Billy custody of Leila and she moves in with him. She's still upset with him, until she asks him if they can visit Maureen's grave. There, Billy tells Leila he's going to fight again, where he grants her wish of letting her see him fight. The night of the fight comes, with thousands of people ready to see Billy's comeback. Angela brings Leila into the dressing room where they watch the fight on the TV.
The fight commences, and Miguel takes the upper hand, knocking down Billy twice. Both fighters trade furious punches, going hand to hand through each round. Miguel then gets in Billy's head by insulting Maureen. This causes Billy to lose concentration and in a fit of rage, lashes out at him and almost stops the fight. Tick then tells Billy not to let Miguel control him, as both his wife and his daughter are watching him. Billy enters the final round, having finally learned to control his anger, and starts to get the upper hand against Miguel. Both fighters continue to tire, before in the final seconds of the last round, Billy blocks a jab from Miguel, lands a shot to the face before turning southpaw and landing a furious uppercut, causing Miguel to crash down to the ground.
The crowd goes wild and Tick and the team runs in the ring to celebrate with Billy. After a split decision where the first rounds to go Miguel, the final judges announce Billy as the new champion. Billy then collapses in the corner of the ring, crying to Maureen that "they had done it" and finally accepts his fate saying "he is ready" to be a father to Leila. Tick then lifts him up on their shoulders as he closes his eyes tearfully and smiles.
After the fight, Leila meets Billy in the dressing room, where they hug for the first time since Maureen's death. Billy says Maureen would be proud of her and she tells him she loves him as they continue to embrace.
Eminem was originally supposed to play the role of Billy Hope. The film's screenwriter Kurt Sutter said the project was inspired by the rapper's personal struggles. He stated that he had taken meetings with Eminem's producing partners over the past seven years, looking for something to do together. "I know he's very selective and doesn't do a lot. But he shared so much of his personal struggle in this raw and very honest album, one that I connected with on a lot of levels. He is very interested in the boxing genre, and it seemed like an apt metaphor, because his own life has been a brawl. In a way, this is a continuation of the 8 Mile story, but we are doing a metaphorical narrative of the second chapter of his life. He'll play a world champion boxer who really hits a hard bottom, and has to fight to win back his life for his young daughter. At its core, this is a retelling of his struggles over the last five years of his life, using the boxing analogy. I love that the title refers to Marshall being a lefty, which is to boxing what a white rapper is to hip hop; dangerous, unwanted, and completely unorthodox. It's a much harder road for a southpaw than a right-handed boxer." Producers Alan and Peter Riche have given a slightly different story about Eminem's involvement however stating that they set out to make a boxing movie similar to The Champ but wanted to make the story about a father-daughter relationship as opposed to The Champs father-son story. Recalling Eminem's strong relationship with his daughter, they asked him and he was immediately receptive.
On December 13, 2010, DreamWorks acquired the script, with Eminem eyed to play the lead role, however the following August the studio dropped the project.Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picked up the film that October. in December 2012, Eminem dropped out of the film to focus instead on his music.Antoine Fuqua signed on to the project in March 2014 with Jake Gyllenhaal replacing Eminem. Other casting news was announced in May 2014 with Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong'o, and Rachel McAdams officially joining the cast. In August of that year, it was announced that Naomie Harris would be replacing Nyong'o.
Gyllenhaal did research for his role by doing "tons of reading on boxers, orphan boxers, the spirit of gyms all over America, children who start early, [and] the history of foster care in America" while also spending five months training as a boxer. Eminem would later praise Gyllenhaal's performance, noting that "Jake smashed it" in an interview with Zane Lowe.
Southpaw grossed $52.4 million in North America and $38.5 million in other territories for a total gross of $92 million, against a budget of $25 million.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $16.7 million from 2,772 theaters, finishing 5th at the box office.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 59%, based on 222 reviews, with a rating average of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an impressively committed performance, but Southpaw beats it down with a dispiriting drama that pummels viewers with genre clichés." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Soren Anderson of The Seattle Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Southpaw, a boxing movie with a theme of redemption, is redeemed by the performances of its two main actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker." Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "It brings back every stale genre convention you can think of, then hopes you won't recognize predictability pumped up with swearing and steroids and an Eminem song during the training montage." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This is a genre with especially sturdy bones, and when Southpaw connects, which is more often than you might expect, you feel it down to your toes." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Southpaw may be rote, predictable and mawkish, but none of those faults lie in its star. Even when he looks like an unholy mess, he transcends the movie he's in." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three out of four stars, saying "What keeps this cornball business from getting out of hand is the commitment of Gyllenhaal, whose performance is fierce and muscular, in and out of the ring." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "The script may have hamburger for brains, but Fuqua slams it home with the help of actors who give their all - even when giving a little less might have made things more interesting."
Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This isn't great cinema, but it's satisfying movie-making, with nothing more on its mind than telling a heart-tugging story."A. O. Scott of The New York Times said, "I wish I could say Southpaw was a knockout, or even a contender, that it went the distance or scored on points. But it's strictly an undercard bout, displaying enough heart and skill to keep the paying customers from getting too restless." Benjamin Nugent of The New York Times has compared the film to Robert De Niro stating, "Pity Jake Gyllenhaal, who despite getting shredded for Southpaw, could not outbox the shadow of Robert De Niro's Raging Bull performance." Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+, saying "Just as director Antoine Fuqua starts to close in on something interesting and unexpected, he retreats to the safety of his corner and gives us what we've seen too many times before: a predictable flurry of melodramatic jabs." Barbara VanDenburgh of The Arizona Republic gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Southpaw is all about the fist. There's no delicate footwork here, no lingering grace notes. It's a film played entirely in power chords."James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Southpaw isn't content with presenting a gallery of clichéd characters. It takes the time to put flesh on the bones." Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film one out of four stars, slamming Gyllenhaal's performance, saying "As a troubled slugger, Gyllenhaal is impressively muscle-bound, but gives no knockout performance. His work drags on like 12 rounds of fistfight fatigue."
|Black Reel Awards||Best Director||Antoine Fuqua||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Actor||Forest Whitaker||Nominated|
|Jupiter Award||Best International Actor||Jake Gyllenhaal||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Awards||Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture||Forest Whitaker||Nominated|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association||Best Youth Performance||Oona Laurence||Nominated|
An album of James Horner's score was released through Sony Classical on July 24, 2015. This was Horner's final score (it was recorded after The 33, although Southpaw was released first); he was killed in a plane crash on June 22, 2015.