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Southpaw: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Southpaw (2015) movie poster Southpaw

Theatrical Release: July 24, 2015 / Running Time: 124 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Antoine Fuqua / Writer: Kurt Sutter

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Billy Hope), Rachel McAdams (Maureen Hope), Forest Whitaker (Titus "Tick" Wills), Oona Laurence (Leila Hope), Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (Jordan Mains), Skylan Brooks (Hoppy), Naomie Harris (Angela Rivera), Victor Oritz (Ramone), Beau Knapp (Jon Jon), Miguel Gomez (Miguel "Magic" Escobar), Dominic Colon (Mikey), Jose Caraballo (Eli Frost), Malcolm Mays (Gabe), Aaron Quattrocchi (Keith "Buzzsaw" Brady), Lana Young (Gloria), Danny Henriquez (Hector Escobar), Patsy Cannoe Meck (Judge Nora Kayle), Vito Grassi (Nick), Rita Ora (Maria Escobar)

Buy Southpaw from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

For the second straight year, Jake Gyllenhaal has transformed himself physically for a movie role. Last year, it was slimming down to portray Nightcrawler's slimy, insomniac tabloid videographer,
a performance that probably just missed an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This year, Gyllenhaal has bulked up and developed a physique befitting a professional boxing champion for the drama Southpaw.

Gyllenhaal is Billy "The Great" Hope, an undefeated Light Heavyweight boxer who has risen from rags to riches. Having grown up in New York City's orphan system, Billy now has a loving wife (Rachel McAdams) and an admiring young daughter (Oona Laurence). He's worth millions and so is his house, a mansion that would drop the jaws of many movie stars and professional athletes. Billy is eager to defend his title against Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), a Colombian fighter who is desperate for a shot at the belt. Billy's manager (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) doesn't want to schedule a bout, evidently concerned that the outcome could jeopardize the value of his prized cash cow.

How badly does Escobar want to square off with Billy? So badly that in the lobby of a charity event where Billy is delivering a keynote speech, a melee breaks out among the two boxers' respective entourages. A gun is fired, instantly producing an Act One tragedy that is sure to make critics debate with themselves whether or not describing it constitutes a spoiler. Since it appears in the one-sentence synopsis at the top of the film's IMDb page, I'm guessing it's fair game, but I'll allow others to ruin it for you.

"Southpaw" stars a muscular Jake Gyllenhaal as undefeated Light Heavyweight boxer Billy "The Great" Hope.

Southpaw shows us just how quickly fame and fortune can disappear. Billy loses his wife, custody of his daughter, his beloved home, and his manager. Suspended from pro boxing for a year, bankrupt, and subject to random drug testing, Billy moves into a cramped apartment and reluctantly accepts a janitorial job at a nearby gym run by "Tick" Wills (Forest Whitaker), a wise sage with a cloudy left eye.

You know exactly where the movie is going from here. Billy Hope works hard to redeem himself, clawing his way back up to the top, earning custody of his daughter and a chance to fight the hothead he'll always associate with his life-shattering tragedy.

The feature screenwriting debut of "Sons of Anarchy" creator and "The Shield" scribe Kurt Sutter, Southpaw is absurdly contrived. Maybe it's partly because true stories are the basis for a few great boxing movies (e.g. Raging Bull and The Fighter), but the story Sutter has crafted is patently unrealistic and, past that highly improbable public tragedy, doggedly predictable.

Gyllenhaal tries hard to make you overlook the artificiality, committing to the role while adopting the vocal rhythms and attitude of Eminem, who contributes the terrible original song "Phenomenal" to a corny training montage. The actor's presence here and now applies a suggestion of weight and dramatic credibility that a more characteristically muscular actor like Channing Tatum or Dwayne Johnson would not. But, even with The Weinstein Company distributing and Gyllenhaal's weight gain generating buzz months in advance, the fact that this movie is opening wide from the get-go in late summer correctly indicates that this is not the prestige picture you might want.

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) fights for custody of his young daughter (Oona Laurence).

That explains two things: why critics were likely to point out the formulaic movie's glaring faults (they did) and why moviegoers would likely not mind (they didn't), buying into the movie's manipulative design.
Gyllenhaal has never been a huge draw; even that elusive combination of high critical acclaim and public approval has failed to elevate his vehicles to commercially significant heights. You can attribute that to the actor not making blockbuster-type movies (apart from the resoundingly rejected Prince of Persia would-be franchise), but talented actors and filmmakers have been able to succeed with dramas comparable to his output, from American Sniper to Gone Girl to Unbroken. Since Persia's failure, Gyllenhaal has rarely collected huge paychecks, a fact that both lightens the weight on his shoulders and expresses a belief in the projects that his weight gains and losses testify to.

Judging from the reaction at my advance theatrical screening, which drew the most responsive crowd I'd encountered since Selma, many people will love Southpaw. Those in attendance cried, clapped, and cheered, as if they were paid extras in the Las Vegas finale.

In theaters, Southpaw curiously employed a print marketing scheme eerily similar to Warrior's and counterintuitive timing reminiscent of Cinderella Man's. The public apparently loves both of those movies: the 2011 mixed martial arts drama that bombed in theaters but somehow sits in the middle of the IMDb's recent-skewed All-Time Top 250 Movies list and Ron Howard's 8.0 IMDb-rated true boxing drama that struggled enough at the 2005 summer box office to prompt AMC Theaters to offer a Money Back Guarantee. Of those two, Southpaw performed more like Cinderella Man, grossing $52.4 million domestically and matching that exactly in foreign markets for the respectable worldwide haul of $104.9 million.

Director Antoine Fuqua, who has long displayed polished instincts if not quite proficiency, piles on boxing scenes, but at least stages them creatively, moving the camera around like a first-person fighter, a design that recalls but doesn't quite ape Raging Bull's ring scenes. Fuqua had scored back to back hits with Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer. Southpaw is a harder sell than those two action movies without being sophisticated, subtle, or intellectual enough for critics and critically thinking adults to embrace. Boxing movies that have performed well -- like Rocky, The Fighter, and Million Dollar Baby -- have typically done so with the blessings of critics on the path to major awards recognition. Southpaw seems unlikely to score on either of those fronts, thus putting the real onus on the general public and word of mouth.

Still, The Weinstein Company has not given up hope on the film's awards season prospects. At Cannes, company namesake and CEO Harvey Weinstein likened the film to Raging Bull and vowed to get Gyllenhaal the Oscar nomination that Nightcrawler failed to bring him. The studio even went so far as to extend the movie's lifespan with unnatural expansions on Labor Day weekend and the beginning of October to insignificant gains. The public seems to have liked the movie well enough (as evidenced by the 7.6 but dropping IMDb rating), but it seems unlikely that this will be the rare wide release summer movie to vie for major awards over the more critically supported end of year fare.

Despite the unusual theater count rises, the film still made it to home video in a fairly ordinary three months, being released to stores this week on DVD and in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Southpaw: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 picture is suitably and expectedly sharp and vibrant. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also satisfies, doing a fine job of enveloping you with stadium sounds and angry score, while keeping dialogue crisp and easily heard.

Naomie Harris' heaviest acting comes in this deleted conversation occurring on the sidelines of a soccer game. Director Antoine Fuqua discusses his push for authenticity in "Southpaw: Inside the Ring."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD bonus features begin with a collection of eight deleted scenes (20:46).
There's an extended version of the family preparing for the charity event (including more views of Rachel McAdams prancing about in her underwear), a dejected Billy clashing with his concerned employees, a look at Oona putting her father's punching lessons to the test, a scene in which Naomie Harris gets to do some heavy lifting dramatically on the sidelines of a children's soccer game, and several additional father-daughter moments.

Next up, we get "Southpaw: Inside the Ring" (21:30), a polished and detailed making-of featurette. Director Antoine Fuqua, the cast, and real professional boxers/commentators all vouch for the film and the authenticity of its depictions.

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson injects humor into the Screen Actors Guild's Cast Q & A. A small fraction of Jake Gyllenhaal's intense boxing training is made into a montage.

A "Q & A with the Cast" (18:56), conducted July 2015 at the Screen Actors Guild, sees Fandango's Dave Karger talking to Jake Gyllenhaal,
Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, and Miguel Gomez about the film and its making. Much of the discussion centers on Gyllenhaal's intensive preparation and training, while Jackson repeatedly injects humor into the proceedings, which eventually opens the floor to general public questions.

An extended training montage (4:03) sets varied-speed footage of Gyllenhaal and Fuqua getting in boxing shape to Eminem and Gwen Stefani's end credits song "Kings Never Die."

The DVD's only extra is "Southpaw: Inside the Ring", even though it has a little space to spare.

Both discs open with trailers for No Escape, Big Eyes, and The Imitation Game. None of those are accessible by menu and Southpaw's own trailer is characteristically not included.

Topped by an embossed slipcover, the silver DVD and full-color Blu-ray are joined by a code supplying your Digital HD code and directions plus another advertising Monster Soundstage speakers and offering a free 3-day pass to 24 Hour Fitness.

The basic menu places listings and score over a screen-filling montage of clips.

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) jumps rope for his trainer, cloudy-eyed Titus "Tick" Wills (Forest Whitaker).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Southpaw impresses as a vessel for further Jake Gyllenhaal physical transformation. As a film, though, it underwhelms with a contrived, formulaic riches-to-rags-and-back redemption story that never surprises or satisfies.

This Blu-ray combo pack delivers high quality picture and sound plus a good handful of extras (most of them Blu-ray exclusives). Still, I'd recommend one viewing over a purchase, unless you're crazy about boxing or Gyllenhaal.

Buy Southpaw from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Boxing: The Fighter Million Dollar Baby Rocky Annapolis Grudge Match Real Steel
Jake Gyllenhaal: Prisoners Zodiac Nightcrawler Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Accidental Love
Directed by Antoine Fuqua: The Equalizer Olympus Has Fallen Brooklyn's Finest Shooter King Arthur
Forest Whitaker: Lee Daniels' The Butler Good Morning, Vietnam Platoon Pawn Vantage Point
Rachel McAdams: Morning Glory Sherlock Holmes Midnight in Paris | 50 Cent: All Things Fall Apart Freelancers Gun
New to Blu-ray: Jurassic World San Andreas Avengers: Age of Ultron Tomorrowland

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Reviewed October 29, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 The Weinstein Company, Wanda Pictures, Riche Productions, Escape Artists, Fuqua Films,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.