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Southpaw

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

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Movies

 

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Training Day

Los Angeles in 2001 – parts of it are scary places to be – the streets swarm with drug dealers. Such is the workplace of the LAPD Narcotics Branch. Detective Alonzo Harris (played by Denzel Washington) has given 10 loyal and dedicated years of his police career to the Narcs, in an effort to help clean up the streets. We meet him the day he takes on a first-day rookie Jake Hoyt (by Ethan Hawke), to show him the ropes. Jake was a security guard but he now wants to join the fight to stop drugs being sold on the LA streets.  We spend the next 24 hours with the veteran and his protégé. From the get-go, it is clear that Alonzo’s methods are ‘unconventional’ (to say the least) and Jake is taken on a dramatic ride through this dangerous and frightening new world. The only problem is that Alonzo doesn’t always work by the ‘letter of the law’ and Jake is shocked by some of his tactics – to the point where he’s no longer confident of Alonzo’s sanity nor of which ‘side’ Alonzo is actually working for – he is also terrified he won’t actually survive the full 24 hour shift.

This movie is excellent.  It is fast paced, action-packed, in-your-face and terrifying.  The mood is set from the first scene and the camera work on the action and drama sequences is outstanding.  Denzel Washington is jaw-droppingly effective as the wayward Alonzo Harris – just superb.  Ethan Hawke’s naive Jake Hoyte is a perfect foil to Harris’ character and together they are totally authentic in this partnership.  Some of the scenes are chaotic and you may feel that towards the end that the storyline becomes a little far-fetched, yes that is quite possible.  However, I enjoyed this – I was rivetted to the screen for the whole movie, it is very good indeed.

Not surprisingly, at the Academy Awards (Oscar) presentation for the year, Denzel Washington received his second Oscar as “Best Actor in a Leading Role” for his performance as Alonzo Harris.

Made 2001.  Directed by Antoine Fuqua

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Movies

 

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