Southpaw (film)

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Southpaw poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAntoine Fuqua
Produced by
Written byKurt Sutter
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyMauro Fiore
Edited byJohn Refoua
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release date
  • June 15, 2015 (2015-06-15) (SIFF)
  • July 24, 2015 (2015-07-24) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • China[2]
Budget$30 million[3]
Box office$94 million[4]

Southpaw is a 2015 American sports drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Kurt Sutter and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams. The film follows a boxer who sets out to get his life back on track after losing his wife in an accident and his young daughter to protective services. The film was released on July 24, 2015, by The Weinstein Company. The film received mixed reviews from critics, while Gyllenhaal and Oona Laurence's performances received positive reviews.

The movie was set in New York City, New York, yet it was filmed in Pittsburgh and the nearby town of Indiana, Pennsylvania.[5][6]

The film marked one of the last films to be scored by James Horner and the first of three posthumous releases to feature his music (the other two being The 33 and The Magnificent Seven). The film and the film's soundtrack album are dedicated to his memory.


Billy "The Great" Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an undefeated professional boxer living in the suburbs of New York City with his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) and their supportive daughter Leila (Oona Laurence). During his match against Darius Jones (Cedric D. Jones) at Madison Square Garden, Maureen gets scared as Billy takes several horrific hits to the face, resulting in him bleeding profusely out of his left eye. Billy then employs a brutal, fast-paced fighting style against Jones, allowing him to win the match by knockout and retain the undisputed WBA/IBF/WBC/WBO Light Heavyweight title. Despite the victory, he suffers nasty injuries and continuous bleeding.

Afterwards, as the press surrounds Billy, a younger upstart boxer, Miguel "Magic" Escobar (Miguel Gomez), comes in and demands Billy to fight him in the ring, claiming Billy has never been hit by a real man. Upon returning home, Maureen expresses her fears for Billy's safety and urges him to quit while he is ahead or he will become a reclusive alcoholic in two years. During a house party at the Hope house, Maureen talks to Billy's manager Jordan Mains (50 Cent), and disagrees with his plan to get Billy to sign a two-year deal with HBO for three more fights.

Billy and Maureen go to a fundraiser ball where Billy gives a speech, acknowledging Maureen, Leila, Jordan and his friends Gabe, Jon Jon, Eli and Mikey. Miguel is in attendance as well, and as Billy is leaving, Miguel goads him by sexually insulting Maureen and saying he will take his titles away from him. Maureen tells Billy to let it go but Billy's anger gets the better of him, leading to a brawl. One of Billy's friends, Gabe (Malcom Mays) takes out a gun, but a shot rings out without him pulling the trigger. Billy looks over and sees that Maureen has been shot. Miguel, seeing it was his brother Hector that fired the shot, hides the gun as Hector flees while Maureen dies in Billy's arms.

Billy begins abusing alcohol and drugs while obsessively searching for Hector. Billy's friend Jon Jon (Beau Knapp) goes over to try to stop him, only to be threatened by him at gunpoint and blamed for Maureen's death. Billy eventually gets a tip about Hector's whereabouts but only finds Hector's drug-addicted wife Maria, and leaves after learning Hector is a father. Billy meets with Jordan, who suggests selling the house to solve his financial problems. Jordan then books Billy a fight against Kalil Turay. During the fight, Billy gets beaten up so badly that his corner throws in the towel, ending the fight. Blinded by damage due to headshots, Billy accidentally headbutts the ref in the face. Billy is suspended for a year, leaving him with no income and payment damages to the ref. Furthermore, the networks sue him for breach of contract, leaving him in debt and his house and belongings being repossessed. With Billy out of action, his longtime trainer Eli Frost along with Jordan abandon him to work with Miguel.

Billy continues to spiral out of control and eventually runs his car into the tree outside his home one night. The alarm wakes Leila up, and she goes downstairs to find a bleeding Billy lying on the floor, and then calls 911. Billy wakes up in the hospital to be told that Leila is being put in the care of Child Protective Services officer Angela Rivera (Naomi Harris) as he is deemed unfit to care for her due to his reckless behaviour. With nowhere left to go, a forgiving Jon drives Billy to the Wills Gym where he meets former boxer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), who is blind in one eye after his last fight left him injured. Billy wants Tick to get him back on his feet, but Tick knows about his drinking problems and drug use and is hesitant to train him. He offers Billy a janitorial job, but Billy refuses.

Billy goes to the Child Services building and meets with Angela. He admits that he is a mess but he still wants to see Leila. However, Leila blames him for causing both of their problems and refuses to see him. Billy returns to the gym and accepts the janitorial job. While working there, he befriends a boy named Hoppy (Skylan Brooks), who is also an aspiring boxer. He learns that Hoppy's father abuses his mother, which he reports to Tick, with whom he continues to bond. As he continues to make amends in his life, Billy tries to visit Leila, who is still reluctant to see him, but his persistence wins her over. Billy visits Leila again to tell her about his upcoming exhibition fight. As she has been ordered not to attend his fights by the judge, she hits him repeatedly, blaming him for Maureen's death. After participating and winning a charity match against young boxer Keith "Buzzsaw" Brady, Billy is visited by Jordan, who now manages Miguel who recently won the WBC Light Heavyweight Championship from Khalil Turay. Jordan wants to book a fight between the two men within six weeks, knowing that Billy will not have enough time to train. Billy thinks he can make a comeback and wants Tick to train him, but Tick refuses, believing Billy just wants revenge.

Billy goes back to the gym to find Tick furiously hitting a punching bag, after discovering that Hoppy has died after he tried to defend his mother from his father, who then shot him. Lamenting how he could not save Hoppy, Tick steps up and helps Billy train and get back into shape for the upcoming fight. Noting his efforts to turn his life around, the judge grants Billy custody of Leila and she moves back in with him. Upon visiting Maureen's grave at Leila's request, Billy tells Leila he is going to fight again, and grants her wish of letting her see him fight.

The night of the fight comes, with thousands of people ready to see Billy's comeback. Angela brings Leila into the dressing room where they watch the fight on the TV. The fight commences, and Miguel takes the upper hand, knocking down Billy twice. Both fighters trade furious punches, going hand to hand through each round. Miguel then gets in Billy's head by insulting Maureen. This causes Billy to lose concentration and in a fit of rage, lashes out at him and almost stops the fight. Tick then tells Billy not to let Miguel control him, as both his wife and his daughter are watching him. Billy enters the final round, having finally learned to control his anger, and starts to get the upper hand against Miguel. Both fighters continue to tire, before in the final seconds of the last round, Billy blocks a jab from Miguel, lands a shot to the face before turning southpaw and landing a furious uppercut, causing Miguel to crash down to the ground. The crowd goes wild and Tick and the team runs in the ring to celebrate with Billy.

After a split decision where the first rounds go to Miguel, the judges announce Billy as the new champion. Billy then collapses in the corner of the ring, thanking Maureen and finally being ready to be a committed father to Leila. Tick then lifts him up on their shoulders as he closes his eyes tearfully and smiles. After the fight, Leila meets Billy in the dressing room, where they hug for the first time since Maureen's death. Billy says Maureen would be proud of her and she tells him she loves him as they continue to embrace.



Eminem was originally supposed to play the role of Billy Hope. The film's screenwriter Kurt Sutter said the project was inspired by the rapper's personal struggles. He stated that he had taken meetings with Eminem's producing partners over the past seven years, looking for something to do together. "I know he's very selective and doesn't do a lot. But he shared so much of his personal struggle in this raw and very honest album, one that I connected with on a lot of levels. He is very interested in the boxing genre, and it seemed like an apt metaphor, because his own life has been a brawl. In a way, this is a continuation of the 8 Mile story, but we are doing a metaphorical narrative of the second chapter of his life. He'll play a world champion boxer who really hits a hard bottom, and has to fight to win back his life for his young daughter. At its core, this is a retelling of his struggles over the last five years of his life, using the boxing analogy. I love that the title refers to Marshall being a lefty, which is to boxing what a white rapper is to hip hop; dangerous, unwanted, and completely unorthodox. It's a much harder road for a southpaw than a right-handed boxer."[14] Producers Alan and Peter Riche have given a slightly different story about Eminem's involvement however stating that they set out to make a boxing movie similar to The Champ but wanted to make the story about a father-daughter relationship as opposed to The Champ's father-son story.[15] Recalling Eminem's strong relationship with his daughter, they asked him and he was immediately receptive.[15]

On December 13, 2010, DreamWorks acquired the script, with Eminem eyed to play the lead role,[14] however the following August the studio dropped the project.[16] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picked up the film that October.[17] in December 2012, Eminem dropped out of the film to focus instead on his music.[18] Antoine Fuqua signed on to the project in March 2014 with Jake Gyllenhaal replacing Eminem.[7] Other casting news was announced in May 2014 with Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong'o, and Rachel McAdams officially joining the cast.[8] In August of that year, it was announced that Naomie Harris would be replacing Nyong'o.[19]

Gyllenhaal did research for his role by doing "tons of reading on boxers, orphan boxers, the spirit of gyms all over America, children who start early, [and] the history of foster care in America"[20] while also spending five months training as a boxer.[20] Eminem would later praise Gyllenhaal's performance, noting that "Jake smashed it" in an interview with Zane Lowe.[15]

Southpaw marks the first investment in an American film by Wanda Pictures, a division of Wang Jianlin's Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.[2] Principal photography began on June 16, 2014.[21]

It was originally to be set in Detroit, yet Pittsburgh was chosen for the filming and was used as a double for New York.[5][6]


The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Shanghai International Film Festival on June 15, 2015, where it was in competition,[22] and was released on July 24, 2015, by The Weinstein Company.[23]


Box office[edit]

Southpaw grossed $52.4 million in North America and $38.5 million in other territories for a total gross of $92 million, against a budget of $25 million.[24]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $16.7 million from 2,772 theaters, finishing 5th at the box office.[25]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 60%, based on 238 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.00/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an impressively committed performance, but Southpaw beats it down with a dispiriting drama that pummels viewers with genre clichés."[26] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[27] On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[28]

Soren Anderson of The Seattle Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Southpaw, a boxing movie with a theme of redemption, is redeemed by the performances of its two main actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker."[29] Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "It brings back every stale genre convention you can think of, then hopes you won't recognize predictability pumped up with swearing and steroids and an Eminem song during the training montage."[30] Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This is a genre with especially sturdy bones, and when Southpaw connects, which is more often than you might expect, you feel it down to your toes."[31] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Southpaw may be rote, predictable and mawkish, but none of those faults lie in its star. Even when he looks like an unholy mess, he transcends the movie he's in."[32] Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three out of four stars, saying "What keeps this cornball business from getting out of hand is the commitment of Gyllenhaal, whose performance is fierce and muscular, in and out of the ring."[33] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "The script may have hamburger for brains, but Fuqua slams it home with the help of actors who give their all – even when giving a little less might have made things more interesting."[34]

Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This isn't great cinema, but it's satisfying movie-making, with nothing more on its mind than telling a heart-tugging story."[35] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said, "I wish I could say Southpaw was a knockout, or even a contender, that it went the distance or scored on points. But it's strictly an undercard bout, displaying enough heart and skill to keep the paying customers from getting too restless."[36] Benjamin Nugent of The New York Times has compared the film to Robert De Niro stating, "Pity Jake Gyllenhaal, who despite getting shredded for Southpaw, could not outbox the shadow of Robert De Niro's Raging Bull performance."[37] Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+, saying "Just as director Antoine Fuqua starts to close in on something interesting and unexpected, he retreats to the safety of his corner and gives us what we've seen too many times before: a predictable flurry of melodramatic jabs."[38] Barbara VanDenburgh of The Arizona Republic gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Southpaw is all about the fist. There's no delicate footwork here, no lingering grace notes. It's a film played entirely in power chords."[39] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Southpaw isn't content with presenting a gallery of clichéd characters. It takes the time to put flesh on the bones."[40] Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film one out of four stars, slamming Gyllenhaal's performance, saying "As a troubled slugger, Gyllenhaal is impressively muscle-bound, but gives no knockout performance. His work drags on like 12 rounds of fistfight fatigue."[41]


Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
Black Reel Awards Best Director Antoine Fuqua Nominated [42]
Best Supporting Actor Forest Whitaker Nominated
Jupiter Award Best International Actor Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Forest Whitaker Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Youth Performance Oona Laurence Nominated


Eminem executive-produced the soundtrack, which was released by Shady Records on July 24, 2015. He had previously released his single called "Phenomenal" from the soundtrack on June 2, 2015.[43]

An album of James Horner's score was released through Sony Classical on July 24, 2015.[44] This was Horner's final score (it was recorded after The 33, although Southpaw was released first); he was killed in a plane crash on June 22, 2015.[45]


  1. ^ "SOUTHPAW (15)". British Board of Film Classification. June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Sakoui, Anousha (July 24, 2015). "China's Richest Man Marks Push Into Hollywood With Jake Gyllenhaal Movie". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (July 26, 2015). "'Ant-Man' Has Bragging Rights At The B.O. Over Adam Sandler's 'Pixels' – Sunday AM Update". Deadline Hollywood. (Penske Media Corporation). Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  5. ^ a b "'Southpaw' movie now filming in Downtown Pittsburgh". wtae. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
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  13. ^ "Beau Knapp Joins 'Southpaw'". Deadline Hollywood. August 7, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
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  15. ^ a b c Guerrasio, Jason. "New movie 'Southpaw' was created for Eminem — but here's why the role ended up going to Jake Gyllenhaal". Business Insider. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
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  17. ^ Jeff Sneider (2011-10-20). "MGM closes Eminem pic 'Southpaw'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
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  25. ^ Pamela McClintock (July 26, 2015). "Box Office: 'Pixels,' 'Paper Towns' Stall; 'Southpaw' Overperforms". The Hollywood Reporter. (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  27. ^ "Southpaw". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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  29. ^ Andersen, Soren (2015-07-23). "'Southpaw': Hokey boxing film has fine acting in its corner". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2015-07-31.
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  37. ^ Nugent, Benjamin The Ring Cycle: Boxing's Eternal Cinematic Appeal New York Times. September 3, 2015
  38. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (2015-07-22). "'Southpaw': EW review". Retrieved 2015-07-31.
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  41. ^ "'Southpaw' gets KO'd quick, thanks to a miscast Jake Gyllenhaal". 2015-07-23. Retrieved 2015-07-31.
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  43. ^ Rhian Daly (23 May 2015). "NME News Eminem to release new song on 'Southpaw' soundtrack - NME.COM". NME.COM.
  44. ^ "'Southpaw' Score Album Details – Film Music Reporter". Film Music Reporter. June 2, 2015.
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