The other boxing drama directed by a black filmmaker, scheduled to be released later this year, is Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw,” which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him.
Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal) is the reigning Junior Middleweight Champion whose unorthodox stance, the so-called “Southpaw,” consists of an ineloquent, though brutal display of offensive fighting… one fueled by his own feelings of inadequacy and a desperate need for love, money and fame. With a beautiful family, home and financial security, Billy is on top both in and out of the ring, until a tragic accident leaves his wife dead and sends him into a downward spiral. His days now an endless haze of alcohol and prescription drugs, his daughter taken by Child Services and his home repossessed by the bank, Billy’s fate is all but sealed until a washed up former boxer named Tick (played by Forest Whitaker) agrees to take the bereaved pugilist under his wing so long as he agrees to his strict ethos. Tick rebuilds Billy into a new man: one that is agile, fearsome and uncompromising in the ring while thoughtful, loving and disciplined outside of it. Now, as he works to regain custody of his daughter and mounts a professional comeback, Billy must face his demons head-on.
Fuqua has never been nominated for an Academy Award – not even for “Training Day” which saw its star, Denzel Washington, win the Oscar for Best Actor, and co-star Ethan Hawke nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Could this be Fuqua’s first? Time will tell.
Its July release date may suggest that the releasing studio might not be positioning it for Oscar contention. Although it’s a Weinstein Company film, so anything’s possible. And Hollywood loves its white fighter movies. Also, the film is sure to get the right kind of attention, if only because of its strong cast, which also includes Naomie Harris playing a social worker assigned to Gyllenhaal’s family.
Oh, and 50 Cent has a role in it as well.
First trailer for “Southpaw” below: