SOUTHPAW – Review by Susan Granger

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At the Cannes Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein publicly predicted that Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler,” “Prisoners”) would get a Best Actor nomination as light-heavyweight champion Billy “The Great” Hope. In preparation for this arduous role, Gyllenhaal bulked up and worked out with boxers Victor Ortiz and Miguel Gomez. Read on…

As his saga begins, Billy’s idyllically happy with a wonderful wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), and precocious young daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). But his world comes crashing down when Maureen is accidently killed after Billy confronts taunting Miguel Escobar (Gomez) after a charity dinner.

Billy’s anger and despair leads to suspension and substance abuse. His promoter/manager (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) quits and Leila is placed into the care of family services.

Determined to win back custody of his daughter, Billy finds a rundown gym, owned by gruff Titus ‘Tick’ Willis (Forest Whitaker), who agrees to train him for a comeback, teaching him to control his emotional volatility.

“Boxing isn’t about this,” Tick says, indicating his fist. “It’s about this,” he continues, pointing to his head, “It’s a game of chess.”

Obviously obsessed by masculine aggression and brutal violence, writer Kurt Sutter (TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”) and director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “The Equalizer”) dwell on physical brutality and intense realism.

And cinematographer Mauro Fiore films the bruising, bloody fight scenes like pay-per-view television, complete with commentaries by Jim Lampley and Roy Jones Jr.

While Gyllenhaal garners deserved praise for his dedicated work, the part was originally meant for Eminem., who came from the streets, had boxing experience, along with a real-life daughter, and overcame the death of his childhood friend/fellow rapper, Proof, who was shot and killed in 2006.

When Eminem bowed out, so did DreamWorks. So the project was in turnaround until Harvey Weinstein bought in, bringing Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal. And that’s how movies get made.

If you like boxing movies, along with “Rocky,” I’d recommend “Raging Bull,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Fighter” – all far better than this.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10 “Southpaw” is a seriously slick, sweaty, strenuous 6, filled with extreme spiritual and physical suffering on the road to revenge and redemption.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.