What is it about boxing dramas that tug so heavily on our heartstrings? Even during March Madness, there’s nothing quite as sentimental, as "underdog," as the sight of a boxer hammering away at impossible odds to achieve some form of victory. So you’ll understand why we were dabbing away tears as we cheered loudly at the latest trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal’s boxing drama, Southpaw. Check it out.
There doesn’t seem to be anything on display in Southpaw that we haven’t seen in countless boxing movies over the years, from Rocky to the recent The Fighter. And yet, I’m ready to start handing everyone in the above clip the Oscars. Jake Gyllenhaal transforms himself, yet again, for the benefit of a role, here playing troubled fighter Billy "The Great" Hope, a Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World who endures several personal tragedies that influence him inside and out of the ring. But it’s the fact that he’s so completely different from the weasel he played in Nightcrawler that makes us sit up and take notice. Will the Academy recognize Gyllenhaal’s range around this time next year? We can only hope.
Why are we a little hesitant to back the truck up to Southpaw’s door and dump off all of the Oscars? Well, it’s March, for starters, and there’s plenty more due in theaters over the next few months. Also, director Antoine Fuqua has helmed numerous solid films – from last year’s The Equalizer to Brooklyn’s Finest and Training Day -- but only the last one had Oscar success. So we’ll reserve hope for "The Great" Hope until we finally check this film out.
What we do know for sure is that Southpaw has an incredible cast beyond even Gyllenhaal. The vastly underrated Rachel McAdams plays Hope’s significant other (though her fate is revealed in the trailer, which might be giving a bit too much away). Forest Whitaker, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz lend support in key roles. But really, all eyes appear to be on Gyllenhaal, who stepped into this role after original pick Eminem – yes, that Eminem – stepped away. By all accounts, Jake threw himself into the role. We’ll see how it turns out when Southpaw opens in theaters on July 31.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.