Southpaw: Beating a Dead Diegesis

Raise your hand if you like cake. Okay, everyone can put your hands down. Southpaw is the cinematic equivalent of cake. It’s pretty to look at, it’s satisfying to eat but it lacks any real substance. But, like most of you, I too enjoy cake; which is why you should check this out in theaters.

It’s appropriate to see how “Southpaw” stacks up against other timeless boxing classics. For starters, it checked all the mandatory albeit cliché boxes:

  • Romance? Check.
  • Down on his luck fighter? Check.
  • Languishing career full of unsavory characters? Check.
  • Triumphant return to the ring? Check.
  • Unlikely victory against an “unbeatable” opponent? Check.

Trust me when I tell you, you’ve seen this film before. At this point it’s just a couple of pugilists beating a dead plot.

Early in the film I had a feeling that we were going to see a lot of the same tired plot lines. It’s rare for a big budget boxing film to break from the traditional line. I had hoped that maybe, just maybe this would be the boxing film that doesn’t come to a neat conclusion. I was wrong, and disappointed.

I will pretty much guarantee that in six month’s time, no one is going to be talking about this film. It probably won’t win any Oscars and will be forgotten like so many other boxing films. Ever heard of “Against the Ropes” or “Resurrecting the Champ?” Didn’t think so. This film doesn’t set itself apart from any other boxing films in any significant way. Jake Gyllenhaal was good, not great and Whitaker put up a lackadaisical performance as a semi-retired boxing trainer. They didn’t introduce anything that we haven’t seen before.

Finally, I wanted to address perhaps the most annoying part of the whole film for me; the title. With a name like “Southpaw” at the very least you’d expect a left-handed fighter. That’s what Southpaw means. Instead what you got what Gyllenhaal standing orthodox the entire film. At some point late in the film Forest Whitaker’s character tells him to move his left leg in front on a combo. It’s completely misleading, the title implies that we may see something we haven’t seen before. The name “Southpaw” implies that something unpredictable may happen. Unfortunately, the movie was very predictable. It came at the same angle and ended the classic way.

But then why would someone like me, an avid boxing fan, recommend such a film? There’s something romantic about boxing films. They capture the everyman who could be any one of us. Just a person with a dream. The cinematography was great and the story kept me on the edge of my seat. The conclusion was exciting. I was filled with anxiety when the final decision came down. See it on the big screen if you can it’s worth the time and money.

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