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Jake Gyllenhaal's performance is a southpaw that goes straight to the heart
We can always criticize Hollywood for bringing movies that are intended to toss some smoke to the viewer by presenting something new with repeated formulas and recycled plots we have seen somewhere else before. The same goes for "Southpaw"... apart from the fact that there's something more lying inside this story about a boxer's redemption. The answer to it is the trust it puts into the strength of its actors and the gripping emotions that come with it.
There's a little sparkle that starts to light up inside of us during the very first minutes of the movie. And even if we barely have the time to see Gyllenhaal and McAdams' characters, we didn't need more because we were instantly dragged towards an emotional charge that never abandons the plot and whose "legacy" is carried on the main actor's shoulders.
Gyllenhaal doesn't skip a beat and keeps his character's pain and rage constantly vivid in every detail - we feel it because we've somewhat experienced in our lives what it means to lose someone we love and feel lost afterward. We felt the struggle coming after the loss of a bond as strong as that one. That's why his performance is relentless and immaculate.
Truth is that the genuine side of "Southpaw"'s plot is based on the main character's fall and his irreproachable route to stand up again, reach the top once more. Only this time, the fight has completely changed and the goals are different, goals that make us question what we really fight for in our life.
You already know this story but not told under these terms. Hollywood has crafted good flicks about fighters/boxers in the last few years and "Southpaw" follows a line that is close to the more recent "Warrior", starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy due to its "underdog" screenplay. What makes this movie different from the rest is the ineluctable emotion that never departs and befalls us, stirring and stirring our inner feelings.
We don't always need to criticize a movie for its predictability. "Southpaw" is predictable but it's also honest in assuming itself as such because its purpose - and I believe, Antoine Fuqua's purpose - is to divert our attention towards something more meaningful. And when a movie pierces the bone to reach our heart and soul with this impact, then it deserves our respect and acknowledgment.
"Southpaw" is, quite simply, liberating.
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