If you didn’t immediately guess, the title of this article is a lie. I watched Southpaw in theaters because seeing Nightcrawler last year changed my life. (Technically I saw Nightcaller, so called because French people have a hard time saying “crawler.”) I developed a latent obsession with Jake Gyllenhaal (please call me Jake Jeaninhole) and started wearing my hair in what my friend Jo and I called the “nightcrawler bun,” which is just a “man bun” with extra grease.
Now that Nightcrawler, which approximately no one saw in theaters, is on Netflix, everyone is realizing how great it is.
just watched Nightcrawler and Jake Gyllenhaal is now my new obsession.
— kare-ē fō. (@KARIFAUX) August 2, 2015
Just in time to hype Southpaw, which is what this article is about.
I was immediately intrigued by Southpaw, a movie I would never ordinarily see, because of the physical transformation that Gyllenhaal underwent for the film. After having lost thirty pounds for Nightcrawler, presumably to make himself look Hot in a Creepy Way (or like a coyote, or whatever), he turned around, gained back that weight, and put on 15 pounds of pure muscle for this new film.
Obviously, my first thought was that Gyllenhaal is some sort of psychopath and only took on this role so he could do more weird stuff to his body. This suspicion was only confirmed by actually watching the film, which had the most boring, basic, forgettable script ever. But I get it – Gyllenhaal clearly likes to put on and take off weight for dramatic effect. I do the same thing with body hair.
To actually talk about this film has the potential to put you to sleep, so I’ll get right to the main question: the extra muscle actually made Gyllenhaal less hot. My perhaps evident inclination towards really skinny guys notwithstanding, he didn’t look as good as he did in Nightcrawler. Reason #1 to not see this film.
Reason #2 is that you’ve definitely already seen this movie before. The whole thing is a typical sports movie/hero journey that hits every single trope of its genre. (Spoilers ahead.)
First off, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a boxer who is on top of the world when this movie starts, as evidenced by his beautiful wife, huge mansion, happy family, and the fact that he’s literally undefeated at the start of the film. This is all ruined when his hubris —or more accurately— toxic masculinity leads him to get into a brawl with an upstart rival that results in his wife getting accidentally shot to death. (There’s a gun control message buried in this movie, I guess, except they don’t touch on it at all. Wishful thinking.)
From there it all falls quickly apart, as he sinks into depression that leads him to contemplate suicide, drink a lot, crash his car, lose a fight, get a one-year suspension by punching a ref, get his house foreclosed, and get his daughter taken away from him. The real strength of this movie is probably its subtlety.
He then goes to a small neighborhood gym run by a trainer who happens to be a Wise Old Black Man. Gyllenhaal wants him to teach him discipline, and of course he does. After a whole bunch of training sequences, and some scenes where he visits his daughter, of whom he eventually regains custody, he books another fight. This fight represents him coming back morally, as a fighter (he has a new technique where he actually uses defense… groundbreaking), as a father, and as a man.
I’ll leave you to guess whether or not he wins, but like I said, you’ve seen this movie before.
My recommendation is instead of being a thirsty sucker like me and shelling out $12.75 to see this extremely boring film, stay home, make some nachos, and hit up Netflix for some Nightcrawler goodness. You’re welcome.