Never Give Up: Critical Analysis of “Southpaw” - Movie about The Success or Defeat

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“Southpaw”, in other words, the left hand. The unmissable dramatic sport story movie of Billy Hope, by Antoine Fuqua, in 2015. This movie highlights the performances of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Forest Whitaker, Curtis “50 cents” Jackson, and a lot of other actors. According to Camden Francis on the site IMDb, for two hours and five minutes the author give us a beautiful story and lesson of life. A story of 'a champion boxer [Billy Hope] fight to get his daughter back from child protective services as well as revise his professional career, after a fatal incident sends him on a rampart path of destruction.” Will he find the strength to get out of it? Or, will he fall to the bottom of the chasm? Some critics are not soft on this subject, for instance, with only 75% of the audience on Rotten Tomatoes; critics consensus say that Jake Gyllenhaal acting with a level of high performance, but then, the movie lost its self in demoralizing drama and put the spectator in some habitual boxing movie cliché. In my opinion, we have to watch this movie focusing on the way of the actors play, even if the story still common in a lot of boxing movie, there is a story behind, an interpretation to grasp, but what is it?

First of all, in order to try to answer and understand, we can divide that into six-part: the six Aristotelian elements. This movie doesn't play a lot with the six elements of drama, and after watching this movie over and over again the most important element that we need to focus for me is the character. This factor is fundamental for the story, especially because in this movie the title of the movie: “Southpaw”, represent Billy Hope, the main character of the script. It is important to know that, at the beginning the role of Billy was not for Jake Gyllenhaal. Eminem was supposed to interpreted this character because the original script, by Kurt Sutter, was written to give to the public a kind of analogy of the Eminem true story and redemption in his life, in relation with his album Recovery, in which one Eminem talk about his family's loss of confidence on him, and the death of close friends. Unfortunately, Eminem wanted to focus on his music, and numerous actors try, but one ends up shining, Jake Gyllenhaal. He was perfect for this role, like Oona Laurence, as his daughter, and Rachel McAdams, as his wife. These actors have an impact on the way of they act. That gives a better understanding of what is happening to the spectator. Also, that permit to feel what our characters feel, and enter in their minds. The acting of Jake Gyllenhaal was remarkable! The power of his acting by his face, movements, and words transmit to the public the feeling of rage, anger, vengeance. More of that, Jake Gyllenhaal took his role seriously because before this film he knew nothing about boxing and was right-handed. He had to endure intensive boxing training to gain muscles and cardio. Inspired by Miguel Cotto, a professional boxer, Jake worked hard, and the result is recognizable today. After watching this movie, you are ready to move mountains and overcome anything. You are part of the movie, and you can do nothing to stop that.

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Consequently, after this important first element comes the plot in direct link with the characters. The storyline tries to put some barriers in the life of our characters. If we look, Mr. Fuqua gives a clear exposition of this movie, and suppose to chock the public with an inciting incident maybe a little bite expected. This dramatic event comes upset the life of our principal character, Billy, and complicates the future of his family with his daughter, Leila. So, at a certain point, the storyline was predictable because this movie looks like the majority of sport movies, boxing movies. That means a dramatic event comes into the athlete's life and destroy everything, then the main character tries looking up again and fights for his life and family. At the same time, in this case, that does not take away the charm of the film. On the contrary, it intensifies the interpretation and the message behind this story thanks to the remarkable acting of the comedian.

Furthermore, the theme is for me another important element of this story, but what is it? What is the theme on which the story is based? The center of “Southpaw” movie is the rage, the anger, more exactly the rage to live and survive. The author points out the feeling of revenge against life; the feeling of never give up when you have something concrete to fight like your family. The money cannot buy happiness and family. Also, this movie shows the theme of fight to survive in our society and century, fight for our rights. But again, each people have his own interpretation, for me, this movie can show to the public that with the sport, whatever is it, you can fight and surpass your limits.

The fourth poetic is for me the song/music. In this movie, the song has also an important role and impact. During every structure of the plot, the song has for role to create the same feeling for the public and the character. Especially since some of the music are created and played by, what should have been our main actor, Eminem. For example, King never died, or Phenomenal. Two songs played during the most important action of our character story.

Then, in the fifth position, comes the element of spectacle. This is another big part of this work. Every practice and every game were amazing and spectacular. That come by the way of each scene were recorded and with the acting, as Jake had to play a whole fight every time. For example, during the last fight of Billy, the way of the fight is record permit the spectator to see the fight with the eyes of the character. We are in his body. We fight with him, and that gives more intensity, more feeling of the dolor of the fight. We win or lose with him. The author allows the public to be a boxer during one combat for the championship.

Finally, the last element of poetic in this movie is the diction and dialogue. I decide to put it in the last position because for me this movie is not full and based on dialogue. The action and all the events are based on the character. Let me explain myself. People like this movie because of the acting, the movement of the character, the behavior, the face, the feeling they can transmit, but the dialogue gives just a little part of this feeling, this story. In other words, you understand more the feeling and the movie with the way of the character act than with the dialogue.

In reality, for me, it’s interesting to see that some part of this movie has more than one resemblance with other boxing movies. These similarities can be explained by the influence of these movies in the creation of « Southpaw ». For example, the connections with the movie « Creed » or « Million Dollar Baby » are striking. But this film finds the way to have its own experience, thanks, like I said before, to the interpretation of the actors. The cinema like play with Sportif drama story. In this case, a story of a boxer who lost, or almost lost, everything in his/her life, and wants to overcome the difficulties by fighting the life and going back on the 'ring' with the best coach to teach them life, and never give up. But here, it's not just about that. There are more reflections to study about society, about the role of the family and sport in our life.

More personally, I really enjoy this movie because of the way of Jake Gyllenhaal act. He transmits this power, this rage to fight when nothing is going right in his life. More than a simple sport movie, it's a movie about life. A movie showing to the public, to me, to never give up and always fight for our dreams, our family. “Southpaw' wants to express a moral lesson that the revenge brings only destruction, but this fight for your values ​​and your family gives you the strength to go as far as possible, and this is a good way of revenge on what life has done to you. Also, I like this movie because of the relationship between the father and his daughter. The fight of his life is not on the ring to boxing, it's in his real life, to keep his daughter with him. Finally, this movie can maybe let a critic behind this story, of the real danger of this sport. If we look at the physique of Billy, fight after fight, he can't almost open the eyes and walk. That why, at one point during the movie Maureen Hope (The wife) asks Billy to stop because a family needs a father, or a mother, healthy, not disfigured. So, this side of the movie, the importance of the family it’s why I like it and enjoy, because my family takes a big place in my life. So, the family side touches me a lot.

To conclude, “Southpaw” was a really good movie, with maybe for default the big similitudes with other movies, classic stereotype and predictable events. But it is just a detail when we can see how the movie is structured, almost perfectly for me. The staging is impressive with a perfect rhythm of each action, each training and fighting scenes are representative of the reality. The whole cast is excellent and transmits the emotions. In reality, the movie could be perfect if the author would have found a way to change the basic history of a sport movies, to surprise the public with unexpected things and never seen before in this category, but we have to understand it’s hard. And you, have you ever seen this movie? Do you had enjoyed it? Or, did you find it basic?

Work Cite

  1. Camden Francis, “Southpaw- Plot”, IMDb site, 2015. Accessed : February 27, 2020
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Never Give Up: Critical Analysis of “Southpaw” – Movie about The Success or Defeat. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
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