SOUTHPAW (2015)

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua 
Written By: Kurt Sutter 
Cinematography By: Mauro Fiore 
Editor: John Refoua 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Forest Whitaker, Beau Knapp, Miguel Gomez, Dominick Colon, Skylan Brooks, Naomie Harris, Victor Ortiz, Rita Ora

*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from IMDb among other sources In this review

As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope, begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.


Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is the strength of the film and provides a kind of new type of performance from him. That makes him seem more brutal and streetwise. Speaks as more of a brawler. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t give him much to work with nor does it rise to the sorts of depth that he tries to showcase. As the film ends up becoming more of a combination of well-intended and dressed-up cliches. That makes the film constantly feel familiar, yet ends up becoming formulaic.

As soon as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson shows up we know all we need to know about his character and where most likely the story is going. As everyone seems to play their character by the book. Which again makes the film come off as paint by numbers. Where here they try to color outside of the edges time to time to throw off where the movie is going. For instance a scene or two where it seems like the film might go the revenge route and quickly drops that side of the story. I am guessing as to his spiritual well-being and beating up the guy’s friend in the ring will be the ultimate revenge?

His wife’s murder subplot is a major point of the film. As it introduces the revenge-justice angle of the story but after that, it never answers many of the questions the audience has. Like what happened to the guy? Was he caught as the entourage seemed to rush him out. Also, I know it is easy to set his opponent up as a major villain, but his look of shock could have opened up the movie dramatically as to what he is going to do about this. Turn his friend in? Hide him And disavow him. That is a major dramatic opportunity dropped. We never even really see it affect him other than that moment and leaves you to wonder if he was just shocked, thinking they were just busting each other’s chops and this fool brought it to a place it didn’t bleed to be or wondering will this hurt his career? As is it only sets up a well-earned rivalry. As it is Gyllenhaal enemies’ camp fault for the death.

So that it seems the film keeps coming up with interesting ideas and abandoning them. To either keep the movie streamlined and moving forward or were scared to go off the path that might have added something new to the mix and made it at least more noteworthy.

It seems the child bonding scenes are here to give the main character something to strive for and keep him going throughout. As well as show his sensitive side and add a heartwarming element to the film.

Strangely the film seemed to be set up to be an awards season challenger and THE boxing movie of the year, but CREED seemed to be the one that no one saw coming to take that title, An underdog itself.

While that takes shape on the side the film adds a child surrogate for him to bond with as it ends up having little to no reason. As it eliminates it later for emotional manipulation, but as it was never built too strongly. So that it just adds up to a challenging scene that asks us to get emotional for something. And someone that wasn’t properly or strongly introduced in the first place. That just seems to reinforce the fact that these are some mean streets. Embrace them, but try to get away from them also. In other words, don’t forget where you came from.

We envy get the grizzled old trainer played by Forest Whitaker whose character is tough but loving and likes a drink now and then.

The film uses the fight as a representation of revenge and redemption. It also encourages the reunion with his child. On that end the film again becomes not only cliche but convenient as the social worker he is dealing with at first seems gruffer with him. Though all of a sudden with no real reason, she does an about-face and is one of his biggest supporters. A dramatic decision that isn’t seen or earned.

The film has plenty of workout scenes to show the brutality of trading but gives the men credit for the toughness and bravado shown. Letting the audience have a more physical reaction to the actors physical (it seems) transformation. I am sure it also helps to convince the audience to be attracted to the star even more.

The boxing scenes are more about brutality and seem to want to come off more as street fights that is how vicious they look at times.

Though the film eventually becomes monotonous as it seems to get in its own way too often that not even the impressive visuals can save.

“Southpaw” is the term given to unorthodox stance (left-handed) boxers. However, Jake Gyllenhaal is right-handed, therefore orthodox. He only adopts the southpaw stance in the final fight, under instruction from his trainer Which even seems like a premeditated conclusion for the title.

As the film was first offered to star Eminem as an unofficial follow-up to 8 MILE. One can see how as the character has many similarities to him as far as the public knows about him and fits the themes of his songs. Closeness to his daughter, growing up on the mean streets, becoming successful and still not being entirely happy, having many enemies who seem to come for him. Having an entourage, going down the road of drugs and booze that seems to almost destroy him, making a comeback. Though Eminem did work on the soundtrack and wrote 2 songs for the film

It’s a film that could have been interesting, but we have seen it way before. Even if it tries to offer a different take then ROCKY a more street smart, tougher and violent one. It just offers nothing new. Other than an opportunity to see a movie star stretch.

Maybe as it seems to try and at the time seek out awards contention. That might be the reason the film feels so stuffed. As it goes overboard in trying to impress the audience. Instead of just being itself and going where the story could naturally lead.

Grade: C-

DEMOLITION (2016)

Directed By: Jean Marc-Vallee
Written By: Bryan Sipe
Cinematography By: Yves Balenger
Editor: Jay M.Glen

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Polly Draper, Debra Monk, Heather Lind 

A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. With the help of a customer service rep and her young son, he starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.


The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2007 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

This is one of those almost movies. That feels like it is almost o to something but seems to get lost before it can say ultimately what it wants to or before actually saying something profound.

The film stays off-center yet always pretty in its presentations the films end up feeling too designed like the products he dismantled to see how they work. Which the film tries to work in the same way. But seems too on the nose to be quirky and accepting as it seems to want to be offbeat.

A character study where the protagonist tries to find himself and ends up attracting other so-called misfits fighting to find and be themselves. While also trying to be seen as normal and fit in. Though really questioning what that is.

It is basically the main character having to dismantle and destroy his life to rebuild and start again. Which is why his character seeks to take things apart and study them. To see how they work and how they function.

The film is meant to be more of a character study which it achieves and as usual unfortunately also introduces characters more interesting than the lead. Who get scenes of depth and drama, but ultimately seem more like ornaments meant to distract and beautify the film add some flavor, but never really get to shine themselves.

Which is becoming more common in director Jean Marc-Vallee oveure of films. Presenting a kind of reality that always comes with some quirk or bigger than life or life-affirming meaning that seems more magnified than normal. Her he seems to go through realistic characters take on life and challenges as we watch to see their journey through it to the other side. More like emotional action movies with a sharp eye for visuals

It feels more a film about trying to win awards. Though there is some heart in here and tries to say something about the human condition. More about finding yourself. Here it seems like the character was already on that path. Only a tragedy happened that really opened his eyes and lead him to it.

The film feels transparent. It speaks to the audience as the film asks how are you supposed to react to tragedy? Is it disrespectful if in your reaction you aren’t emotional enough or know how exactly to feel? It’s not exactly Always textbook. As we are all individuals. So it Aldo’s how do you feel when what came before was almost on autopilot of what was expected but. Ever felt fulfilling, deserving so that it was almost a lie.

It feels like a film as all of the things that happen seem more announced. I can go with the suspension of disbelief, but when made so obvious it is hard.

This is a feel-good film, yet it becomes what it seems to want to avoid by becoming overbearing after a while.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s detached performance is what will win you over. As he is at total opposites at times but he keeps the film spirited and lively. Where he not only becomes the center of attention, but the most entertaining aspect of the film.

What is at least original is that the film doesn’t paint the main character as some kind of saint or hero. He freely admits his faults and the bad things in the past. It doesn’t praise his wife but makes them look more like a human coup going through the motions of a relationship and never really talking about their problems or dealing with them before this accident happens.

I wish the same could be said of Naomi watts character who is interesting. As her problems are laid bare, but her wrong decisions make her at least interesting when it comes to her character’s psychology. Even as we are used to Naomi watts playing these complicated characters. The character is there but the performance never quite catches on as it feels too plain when it might be better to showcase more of her at war with herself. Here her character keeps it maintained maybe due to her pot smoking. Which might regulate those feelings.

As his late wife throughout the movie haunts him and the other characters but we learn little about her though by the end she becomes more real for us in the audience to get more of a sense of her and not exactly the saint she has been made to be at the beginning. Just that something bad happened to her that she didn’t deserve. As with most of the characters. She was just trying to figure things out and all the people who believe they have it all figured out have comfort but aren’t necessarily being truthful to themselves or are rather simple The other aspect of the film that is eye-catching is the more modern designed clothing and appliances. That comes off shiny and smooth and provide the perfect facade, before revealing their grungy and dirty insides once explored.

Other Than the tragedy the film easily comes off as more middle-aged wish fulfillment than anything else.

Though the film does manage to win you over at certain points and feels personal to a degree when it’s supposed to.

GRADE: B-

VELVET BUZZSAW (2019)

velvetbuzz

Written & Directed By: Dan Gilroy
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Editor: John Gilroy 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Zawe Ashton, Rene Russo, John Malkovich, Tom Sturridge, Toni Colette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Digs, Billy Magnussen 

A satire set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce.

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