Originally conceived as a vehicle for rapper Eminem, Southpaw – think an 8 Mile-long Rocky, directed by Antoine Fuqua – stars a bulked-up and compelling Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a prize fighter battered by gloved fists and some of life's hardest conceivable knocks.
He rages and broods, beating the odds as he beats himself up, too. Orphaned as a boy, he is brutally sucker-punched as an adult when his precocious daughter (played by special young actress Oona Laurence) is taken from his custody.
The melodrama is uncomfortably high; the checked-box plot is manipulative.
Sweaty and bloody as it is, Southpaw is not so much a film about boxing as it is a meditation on mistreatment, and how it can cause a human's soul to be too comfortable on the canvas.