MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker
I have never been a big fan of boxing, but this violent sport has nevertheless produced some great movies (including The Champ (1931 and 1979), Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, and at least three of the six Rocky pictures).
Most boxing movies feature a simple but big-hearted hero who rises slowly up the ranks of the prizefighting world only to suffer some kind of tragedy that knocks him (or her) down. A caring trainer will work with the fighter to help them put their life back together again. These plot elements are sometimes lined up in a different order, but that’s about how it goes.
Southpaw is a movie that is aware of these familiar attributes and it would be tempting to write it off as an unnecessary addition to the genre. However, Southpaw is a really good film for a good number of reasons.
First and foremost, it is a story about family. Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) loves his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and daughter Leila (Oona Lawrence) and it is this love that is at the heart of the story. Although Billy lives in a huge mansion of a house, his needs are simple and pure. His manager (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and entourage are clearly making more from his fame than he is. When an incident outside of the ring causes Billy to lose everything, his fight to regain his title is motivated by love rather than money or celebrity.
The characters are interesting and complex, with Forest Whitaker delivering a gruff and often funny performance as a boxing coach and Jake Gyllenhaal showing once again (following a terrific lead performance in last year’s Nightcrawler) that he is one of our finest and underrated actors. His early scenes with his daughter are sweet and charming; later scenes are heartbreaking. The boxing scenes are well choreographed and gripping.
As Christians, we base our worldview on the possibility of redemption, so any film with a strong story of rebirth and hope ought to be given a wide berth in our hearts. Granted, when a boxer turns the other cheek, they get punched in the jaw from the other side.
This movie is filled with violence and profane language, but there are some decent and caring persons to be found in the heart of Southpaw.
The light still shines in the darkness.
Three halos: An entertaining sports film with a warm heart.
Three pitchforks: A warm heart pumps out a lot of blood in many violent boxing scenes; one shocking act of violence outside of the ring; plenty of R-rated swearing throughout.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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