Any boxing movie that followed on from the likes of Raging Bull was always going to have a pretty tough ride.
With that said, Southpaw does its best to offer up the best shot it can in order to win audiences over. It is greatly helped by Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive transformation into champion boxer Billy Hope (if you look at him in this, then watch Nightcrawler, for which he was Oscar nominated, the difference is astounding). Gyllenhaal spent five months training for the role, and it shows - his physique is chiselled to what many might think is fighting-style perfection.
The backstory behind his character is a little clichéd, what with him having grown up in foster care and then stepping into the ring in order to make something of himself, but after the tragic loss of his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) in a shooting, Hope, a little predictably, goes on a downward spiral which sees him lose not only his fancy house and collection of cars, but also the custody of his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) and it's here where the movie really makes its mark.
As a child actor, Laurence is one of the strongest players in the whole film. Her interactions with her father, so soon after the death of her mother, are short and almost bitter at times; when she finally lashes out at him, it's somewhat expected but the force with which she hits him is understandable and makes for a strong scene in itself. Meanwhile, when the pair are properly reunited, the scene with them in the cemetery is a truly touching, emotive moment in the film, but again it is Laurence who makes it so rather than Gyllenhaal.
Taking on a night job as a cleaner in a gym under the watch of trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker), slowly but surely, Hope finds his feet again, along with his rhythm and passion. The final part of the film sees him in a showdown with Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) as he battles to take back his title and get his career back on track. The direction of Antoine Fuqua is at its strongest during these clashes, with both fighters getting bloodied and battered, but ultimately, and again rather predictably, Hope comes out on top, celebrating in the dressing room before embracing his new start in life with his little girl.
For a few hours entertainment, you can certainly do a lot worse than this, but, with so many other highly anticipated movies still to be released this year, Southpaw may yet find itself struggling to be truly memorable some months down the line.