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Jake Gyllenhaal gives his fans his best work since Brokeback Mountain as light heavyweight champion Billy Hope who suffers a horrific personal tragedy beyond any I've ever seen in a boxing film and comes back from it. For what he goes through Sylvester Stallone had it easy. As Brokeback Mountain got him an Oscar nomination maybe Southpaw will do the same.
Billy Hope is a kid raised in an orphanage as a foundling as is his loving and supportive wife Rachel McAdams. They have a daughter played by Oona Laurence who is their whole world. When McAdams is killed in an unspeakable tragedy, Gyllenhaal's world falls apart and he has to make one long comeback.
As a kid who was raised by the social welfare system it's the system that decides what he must do to gain back his child. Gyllenhaal is wonderful as a man who successfully conquers the badder angels of his nature to gain it all back, title, child, and self respect.
McAdams should be singled out for a moving death scene ranking up there with some of the screen's best. Also Forest Whitaker who trains the ex-champ for his comeback should also be singled out.
Watching Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope put me in mind of heavyweight contender Hurricane Jackson when I was a kid. There's no science in Hope's style, he just wades in and brawls. Hope will take two or three punches to get in his shot. As McAdams points out he'll be punch drunk within a few years. Whitaker puts a little science in his boxing persona. Hurricane Jackson was very much like Billy Hope and did in fact end up punch drunk.
This is a fine boxing film and Oscar nominations could come for Gyllenhaal and McAdams.
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