starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Oona Laurence, Skylan Brooks, Beau Knapp and Rachel McAdams
written by Kurt Sutter
directed by Antoine Fuqua
Boxing drama about light heavyweight champion Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), his rise to riches from his start in an orphanage in New York City’s notorious Hell’s Kitchen district, then his fall from the top, followed by successfully clawing back to the top of his sport. When I watch a boxing movie I try to find parallels with other boxing films Rocky (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Hurricane (1999), Million Dollar Baby (2004), etc. I can’t tell if any of the parallels I think I see are real or just my imagination.
Hope’s life falls apart at the peak of his success: his wife is murdered; he falls into major depression; he loses a title match; in failure he is totally abandoned by his supporters and entourage; he loses his boxing license; then he over drinks and contemplates suicide; his only daughter is taken into protective custody by Social Services while he is ordered into counseling and supervised visitation; without fighting his income stream is cut off and he quickly loses his house and all his possessions to the IRS.
Then Billy turns to a new trainer, Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker). I have habitually avoided any movie with Forest Whitaker in it because I consider him an awful actor who poisons nearly everything. Having said that, though, I admit that I’ve seen one or two good films featuring him (Last King of Scotland, 2006, directed by Kevin Macdonald). After a good showing in a charity match (for which Billy does not need a boxing license), Billy is approached with an offer to help smooth his licensing problem with the Boxing Commission and get him back into the ring for a title match to regain his old light heavyweight belt. Tick resists training him at first, but gives in.
Billy fights. Billy wins. He’s a right-handed fighter, but he wins by Knock Out at the end of a grueling slugfest by suddenly landing a hard, direct left-handed, southpaw blow as Tick trained him to do. I’m not a boxing fan, but it’s interesting how the violence of boxing films get the adrenaline going. Something about male psychology, I guess.
I was hoping for a cameo by Mike Tyson, but it didn’t happen.