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FILM SLIDESHOW

Jake Gyllenhaal Continues His Winning Streak By Absolutely Crushing It in SOUTHPAW

With another head-turning performance, Jake Gyllenhaal transcends even further above his under-40 acting peers.

Southpaw pummels you with its physicality and familiarity. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen), it’s a bruising two-hour exercise in tried-and-true sports movie tropes: the one-time champion forced to reclaim his throne; a down-and-out fighter struggling to keep his family in good graces; a melodramatic march towards a predictably triumphant, climactic final competition. With his first movie screenplay, Sons of Anarchy overseer Kurt Sutter paints by the genre’s standard numbers, but Fuqua, to his credit, does a fine-enough job staging boxing matches that leave the viewer dizzied and shell-shocked.

Yet that’s all rendered inconsequential by Southpaw’s crown jewel: the lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s been killing it lately with one terrifically executed performance after another in smartly chosen projects, from 2013’s Prisoners to last year’s Enemy and Nightcrawler. As Southpaw’s emotionally battered pugilist Billy Hope, Gyllenhaal demolishes the screen with pure ferocity, channeling an explosive medium between Sly Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and Robert De Niro’s Jake LaMotta mixed with the vulnerability Gyllenhaal displayed in quieter films like Love and Other Drugs.

Hope is a belt-holding prizefighter whose professional accomplishments are matched by his lovingly functional home-life, shared with his wife (Rachel McAdams) and their young daughter (Oona Laurence). A vicious spat with boisterous up-and-coming boxer (Miguel Gomez) leads to a tragedy that creates a negative domino effect, eventually pitting Hope against an evaporated bank account and the possibility of losing his daughter to the state. The only way he’ll be able to beat those odds? By stepping back into the ring for one big fight, of course.

You’ve seen that movie, countless times. But you've never seen Jake Gyllenhaal destroy all comers like this before.

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