Friday, 24 July 2015
Million Dollar Rocky.
123 Minutes. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachael McAdams, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris, Oona Laurence, Rita Ora & Forest Whitaker. Director: Antoine Fuqua.
Welcome to the punch! Raging in the red corner and burning with a heart full of revenge, Jake Gyllenhaal is back. Back from the blue corner, McConaughey 'Dallas Buyers Club' rail-thin neon 'Nightcrawler' Oscar slight. Muscling up from scrawn to brawn in less months than syllables in the calender year to bring us a powerhouse performance that could go 12 rounds with his dark depths of crawling into the night. Another formidable film that you can add to the next DiCaprio and Pitt's chameleonic cinematography of greats like the arresting 'Prisoners' and cop show 'End Of Watch'. Not to mention the change of course 'Source Code' to an already classic career of 'Jarhead', 'Zodiac', the definitive 'Donnie Darko' debut and of course the classic that brought everyone together, including late, fellow young great Heath Ledger; 'Brokeback Mountain'. 'Southpaw' is a first round and rate knockout, willing to go toe-to-toe with the likes of 'The Fighter' or UFC's 'Warrior', punching above its weight for the same ring as 'Million Dollar Baby', 'Rocky', 'Raging Bull' and the underrated Mann classic that should have been Will Smith's iconic career making Oscar; 'Ali'. Ready to take the belt with blood and sweat from its peers. This lucky lefty hits its mark in the Mayweather age, before the 'Rocky' spin-off 'Creed' starring Sly Stallone and Michael Jordan (a kid set to be the next sports icon) gets the chance to leave it's corner. That's thanks to 'Training Day' director Antoine Fuqua entering the gym after last years 'Equalizer' reunion with Denzel Washington, proving that when it comes to films like this, Fuqua has no equal, no opponent. With originally a film that was wrote with the real Slim Shady, Eminem in mind, the man that once wrote a Riddler rap audition to Christopher Nolan for 'The Dark Knight Rises' passed on the opportunity to co-star with his protégée 50 Cent. Instead the blonde bomber from '8 Mile' road chooses to provide the soundtrack of this ride like he did with Sia in 'The Equalizer' with 'Guts Over Fear'.
That's because the brave glory of Jake Gyllenhaal is the phenomenon here and not just for the mass effect he had on his body, going from flesh and bone to abs and lats in what in a Hollywood 15 minutes looked like one gym session. The skinny on 'Nightcrawler' may have been the skin-crawling psychotic psychological transformation as well as the physical one, but there's more than what meats the eye in this body of work. As Gyllenhaal once again goes beyond the surface to show what lies beneath the darkness he has seen behind those black eyes, no matter how forced closed they are by wool or another mans hand. From dusting knuckles to hitting the canvas this boxer shows the ecstasy elated highs and sickingly sobering lows of being the definition of a fighter on the ropes in and outside of the ring for this prize fighters metaphor of life. Boldly Balboa showing us that no matter how hard he can get hit, he still gets back up because that's all that matters. Taylor Swift's bad blood can't even beat this guy. Gyllenhaal is punch drunk in love with capturing characters creatively and in collaboration with the complexion of his complexities. Here he brings us the elements of what would have made Marshall Mathers character as well as the makings of his own man. From the pure pain of lasting loss and the morals of a more meaningful victory, forget about punches pulled, or gloves that are off...this guy gets the belt. And with her own ring his wife of this movie Rachael McAdams is wonderful here. Made up in boxers wife blonde tan, heels and cocktail dress, but showing the dedicated depths of her hair tied back and stripped down 'True Detective' season 2 cop character of genuine grit. Never looking better in picture or presence, McAdams is the emotional crux and evoking catalyst of this movie that hits you with a blindside on your left.
Right to our man in the middle of all of this is plenty more in our characters corner. It's not just Gyllenhaal's Billy Hope character giving the definition of his surname. His on screen daughter, child actor Oona Laurence is a revelation. Just wait until she matures like 'True Grit's' Haille Stanfield. There's women here the show this sport isn't just a mans world like Ali's daughter. James Bond's Moneypenny, Naomi Harris brings more stellar service of substance as a social worker on Hope's case while British singer Rita Ora shows some meaning behind the music, hitting some dark dynamics of range as a drug junkie after her cameos in 'Empire' and 'Fast & Furious' (speaking of that, what happened to singer and rising actor Tyrese Gibson's role?). Rapper 50 Cent also brings acting credit to his name Curtis Jackson worthy of a few dollars more in what could have been his mentors movie. Floyds buddy may have just become bankrupt, but going for broke here he makes a declaration as a cash crooked promoter that is throwing rocks and rolls at Don King's crown. Still when it comes to Jake's throne the only one that can pound for pound match him in acting weight is the great 'Last King Of Scotland' Oscar winner Forest Whitaker. A legend the stood next to the energetic and emphatic icon of enthusiasm; Robin Williams in his debut days for 'Good Morning Vietnam' to most recently being at the service of every President (including the reunion with Robin's Eisenhower) in Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'. Here Whitaker, playing the ringside Christian Bale to our fighters Mark Wahlberg gives a hangover wake up call to a heavyweight champ in dispute with a Joe Frazier sobering gym, training young fighters living in poverty, but promise. Drunk off punch and too many glasses spiked with whiskey, Forest's character searches for redemption at the bottom of his career after not finding it at the bottom of his glass. This raw and real sparring partner gives our Oscar worthy lead his Academy acclaimed supporting actor. The 'Ghost Dog' star shows even more spirit than the soul of his heart-wrenched past performances of acting pain and critical gain. Fuqua's whole f-bomb to those that write off the down and outs is the perfect fist bump to anyone fighting with their backs against the wall. Wearing us down with the drama only to floor us with the action, using a swift hook to rope-a-dope us until we can't take it anymore and he takes over. From the rings of the Mecca of Madison Square Garden to the casino circuits of Las Vegas this rumble in the concrete jungles is a Manilla thriller. Yet from the classic choreography to the defining drama everything here is less than Jake. The real K.O. delivering us the heaviest blow. Count on it! It's over! TIM DAVID HARVEY.