Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Going the Distance Gyllenhaal Shows His Versatility in Filmed-In- Pittsburgh 'Southpaw'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Going the Distance Gyllenhaal Shows His Versatility in Filmed-In- Pittsburgh 'Southpaw'

Article excerpt

Like a title fight with the usual trappings - two modern gladiators with tats across sinewy backs, HBO announcer Jim Lampley, corner men trying to stanch bleeding, ring girls in teeny bikinis - the story of "Southpaw" seems very familiar.

What distinguishes it, however, are Jake Gyllenhaal as light heavyweight champion Billy Hope and (arriving nearly an hour into the picture) Forest Whitaker as Tick Willis, a retired fighter who spends his days training amateurs.

Coming on the heels of Mr. Gyllenhaal's haunted, hungry videographer in "Nightcrawler" and before his turn as a long-haired mountain climber in "Everest," it's another click of the reel Rubik's cube that shows his versatility and skill that often have played second fiddle to his good looks. Mr. Whitaker? His Oscar- winning turn in "The Last King of Scotland" speaks for itself amid a 33-year career.

Providing his usual assured direction is Antoine Fuqua, who blends shots of New York, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Indiana, Pa., to create a seamless world of a champ who falls from giving out Cartier watches to guests like party favors to an empty apartment accurately described as "300 square feet of nothing."

"Southpaw" opens with Billy Hope being the embodiment of his name. A survivor of an orphanage in Hell's Kitchen, he is now an undefeated boxer, husband to a loving woman (Rachel McAdams) who looks out for his personal and professional welfare, and father to their doting daughter (the excellent Oona Laurence), age 10.

But a taunt from another fighter leads to a melee and errant bullet. In short order, Billy loses members of his family, his friend and manager (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson), his mansion, cars, fortune and title.

If he has any chance of putting his shattered life back together, Billy will have to start over with the help of Tick, a complicated character who is well aware of the plight that led to the newspaper headline: "The Great White Dope - Hope Loses Everything."

Billy is not an eloquent character; he often speaks in a fumbling manner like a punch-drunk boxer who lacks much formal education. But the movie roils with emotion, especially on the part of Billy who for so long has been driven by rage on and off the canvas. …

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