Life is pretty hard for boxer Billy Hope (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), but it’s pretty good too. He and his beautiful wife, Maureen (by Rachel McAdams) have a very happy marriage, they have a delightful and well-behaved daughter, Leila (by Oona Laurence) and Billy’s career is going from strength to strength. He works hard and he fights hard in the ring, but he’s the reigning Junior Middleweight Champion and he feels like he owns the world! One evening, the couple attend a special function to honour Billy and suddenly tragedy strikes. Billy’s world is rocked to the core and he loses all hope. Nothing makes sense to him anymore and as depression envelops him, he loses his grip on life. Soon, his career is in tatters, his finances are a mess and then comes the final brutal blow … he loses custody of Leila. He can’t seem to get out of it, until the day he meets Tick Wills (by Forest Whitaker), a retired boxer who now runs a training gym for young amateur boxers, most down on their luck. This man may just be the thing Billy needs – but he’s a tough disciplinarian, with scruples that won’t be challenged. Can down-trodden Billy convince Tick to take him on and re-train him back to where he once was? Can he find the strength to win back the trust of the people around him … and the custody of his daughter? ….
If you take out all the highly graphic physical fights, violence, injuries and workouts it has taken to create this movie, it’s really just an ordinary story. There’s no doubt that Jake Gyllenhaal has given everything to this role – it would have been physical torture and exhausting. However, the story itself is fairly standard – boxer in his prime, cut down by tragedy, loses everything, must regain the trust of those around him, works hard to get back to an even keel … there’s not really anything to add here. However, the performances are all great. Jake, as I said, is fully into this role and he wears it all over his face for much of the movie. Rachel McAdams is luminous – she is lovely and her character is very nice. Oona Laurence does very well as the “older than her years” daughter Leila. It’s good to see Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson in a dramatic role – it’s quite straightforward and he does well. As Tick Wills, Forest Whitaker is fine, but doesn’t do anything too extraordinary. The whole thing is fine, but I’d wait for television to see this.
Made in 2015. Directed by Antoine Fuqua