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Southpaw: How Billy Hope Made Me Cry

So that’s how it feels like watching a fight live! It’s a combination of excitement and at the same time, empathy for the fighters who are trying to hurt each other inside the ring.

This “little” film Southpaw follows the protagonist’s journey from triumph to loss, and his comeback that could be the greatest one yet. It is a story of hope, redemption, love and more. From the start till the end, you definitely don’t want to leave your seat.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this gripping, authentic, realistic and intense performance as Billy Hope, a champion boxer who had everything and then loses the very thing he loved the most. This tragedy will lead him to the path of self-discovery and redemption in his quest for winning his daughter back. 

The film is supported by a superb cast led by Rachel McAdams as his wife Maureen and Forest Whitaker as Billy’s new mentor and trainer, Tick Willis. There’s also an appearance by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as his unscrupulous manager who leaves him after the untimely downfall.

Though not a perfect film due to some plot holes and its common theme, this is definitely a film you’ll love and will be in your favorite list for a very long time especially if you’re a father like me.

Fathers can connect with this film as Hope goes through his pains and struggles in making a comeback in the biggest fight of his life…to be reunited with his daughter. 

The scenes showing how his daughter rejects him after he lost everything is one emotional roller coaster ride as you remember your own daughter and the broken promises you’ve made. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried, not just once but five times. Good thing there’s only a few us inside the cinema. I really felt what he was going through. What’s ironic is that after it, I felt inspired and ready to go to work. More importantly I wanted to go home, kiss and hug my wife and daughter whom I love dearly.   

What really works in this film is the story told in a simple but refreshing way. It is no Raging Bull, The Fighter, Ali nor Cinderella Man but it’s authentic. It’s heart and soul lies in the protagonist’s very own.

Written by Kurt Sutter inspired by Eminem’s own story of struggles and inspiration, it was complemented by the genius of award-winning Cinematographer Mario Fiore who has done exceptional work in the Training Day, Tears of the Sun and will soon work in the upcoming Western remake “The Magnificent Seven” starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and many others.

It is also good to highlight that the soundtrack, which added to the film’s authenticity, was scored by the late genius James Horner, award-winning composer of Titanic and many others.

In my continuous education in filmmaking, this film is a great discovery for me after a slew of entertaining films such as Jurassic World, Entourage, San Andreas, Terminator Genesis, The Break-up Playlist, Minions, Ant-Man. It is a review in basic storytelling that should touch both heart and mind, and ultimately the soul. It’s a reminder that in producing a film, one should aim in making a big impact to the audience that they leave the cinemas inspired, touched, hopeful and ready to love the people around them and live life to the fullest. I wouldn’t be surprised if this will be buzzing come Oscars next year.

Director Antoine Fuqua, of Training Day and Equalizer fame, successfully shared his vision and message of family love and redemption to his viewers that there is a “Billy Hope” in each of us. We first have to go on and fight till the end no matter what the odds are…for our loved ones.

According to Fiore in an interview with American Cinematograp\her, “Southpaw is a project that Antoine has been passionate about for a long time. This has been his passion and the energy that permeates in all the scenes from the opening scene where Hope prepares for the fight all the way to the championship fight of this life.”

Fuqua in his explanation of the vision for the film is reality. “ As close to reality as you could possibly get in the film.”

The film had a combination of “documentary feel” with the visual cinematic effect to effectively convey what was going inside Hope’s head from the fights, his moments with his wife and daughter, and eventually with his would be mentor. Different color palettes were used especially for the fight scenes for maximum impact of the film’s emotions.

In terms of characterization, Gyllenhaal’s commitment to the film shone through with his intense focus on physicality and the challenge of finding a character in a genre that other people have done so extraordinarily well and how to do it differently. He gave us as a tough and ripped world champion boxer who is a very loving husband and father with vulnerability beneath the tough exterior.

The technical specifications used were as follows: 2.39:1; Digital Capture; Cameras (Arri Alexa XT, Vision Research Phantom Flex, Red Epic Dragon, Silicon Imaging SI-2k Mini) and Lenses (Angenieux Optimo, HR, Fujinon Cabrio, Cooke S4, Mini S4, Lensbaby)

To improve one’s craft, this is one film that an aspiring or budding filmmaker should definitely watch and carefully study not just for it’s technical excellence but story and characterization.

(Photos courtesy of imdb.com)

The Film Dream

September 10, 2015

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! 

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