Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day was cutting edge. It was 2001, and in it, he displayed storytelling talent that belied his years. Having Denzel Washington play your main character and win an Oscar didn’t hurt.
Fuqua hasn’t had that luxury since. While his filmmaking skills are sharper than ever, the choice of subject matter and screenplay limitations are questionable. None is more questionable than Southpaw.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Billy Hope. He is boxing’s aging light heavyweight champion of the world. Wife Maureen — played by a totally wasted Rachel McAdams — wants him to take some time off. Maybe even quit. Ego drives Billy, and while goaded by a pretender to the throne, an altercation happens and Maureen is killed.
Devastated, Billy has what would be scored as a world championship breakdown and loses everything, including his adorable daughter to the state’s child protection agency. After hitting bottom, Billy turns to crusty old trainer Tick Willis. The two, predictably, plan his redemption.
Fuqua and writer Kurt Sutter ( Sons of Anarchy) give neither actor nor their supporting stars anything to do. The trailer predicts a knockout. Reality has this one battling to a stalemate. The key part of the last word — it must be noted — is stale. The last ice age moved faster.