Movie review | Another cliche boxing movie in ‘Southpaw,’ but Gyllenhaal is in the shape of his life

Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in “Southpaw.”
Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in “Southpaw.” THE WASHINGTON POST

Southpaw ***1/2

Critics have been saying that “Southpaw” is little more than another cliché-driven boxing flick, which is patently unfair, and sells short an original storyline, and the flawless portrayal of fictional fighter Billy Hope, by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Of course a movie about the rise and fall and rise of a semi-punchdrunk professional boxer has been told before, and “Southpaw” is quick to revisit certain themes.

Naturally, there will be a worried wife, here played by Rachel McAdams, a precocious child, played by 12-year-old Oona Laurence, a slimy fight promoter/manager, played by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and a grizzled old trainer played by Forest Whitaker.

And of course there will be a personal tragedy, a villainous fighter and a chance at redemption. OK, wow … maybe this has been told before. But in “Southpaw’s” defense, how else could filmmakers play it?

There was “Raging Bull,” all the “Rockys” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ali” and others, and they all used the same plot devices, so why can’t “Southpaw?”

Gyllenhaal, 34, is arguably in the best shape of his life. He’s lean, muscled and pulls off the role as the tormented, twisted and rage-prone pro boxer who has everything, loses almost all, and fights for redemption, both personal and professional.

What do those stars mean?

* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.

** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.

*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most

**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing

***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture

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