Jake Gyllenhaal has been trying to win an Oscar for some time. After being nominated for Brokeback Mountain back in 2005, he has regularly pursued serious, Academy-baiting roles, often going so far as to produce the films himself in order to get them made. This was pretty obvious in last year’s excellent Nightcrawler, but in a strong year for leading men he wasn’t nominated, and it’s even more blatant here with Southpaw, a film that seems tailor-made for him to take another swing at a golden statuette. Boasting such typical favourites amongst voters as a poverty-stricken underdog story and an alarming physical transformation, he may well get what he wants next February.

None of which should take anything from Gyllenhaal’s work. As with Brokeback and Nightcrawler before, he is genuinely excellent here, elevating some very bog-standard material with a performance of physical and emotional ferocity. It helps distract from the fairly rote film built around him, which neatly ticks off every boxing moving cliche you can think of, although they’re all handled with great technical skill and kept interesting by a decent supporting cast. As an underdog boxer story with an emotional undercurrent, it’s perfectly serviceable and awkwardly familiar. As a showcase for a fine actor at the top of this game, it’s exemplary.

Literally every boxing movie you've seen before4
Actually, just the good boxing movies you've seen before7
The technical skill with which this familiar story is told8
Jake Gyllenhaal's physical and emotional performance9
Jake Gyllenhaal's chances of another Oscar nomination9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
Bechdel Test Failures
  • They only talk about men
7Overall Score

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