(director: Antoine Fuqua; screenwriter: Kurt Sutter; cinematographer: Mauro Fiore; editor: John Refoua; music: James Horner; cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Billy Hope), Forest Whitaker (Tick Willis), Naomie Harris (Angela Rivera), Curtis Jackson (Jordan Mains), Oona Laurence (Leila Hope), Skylan Books (Hoppy), Beau Knapp (Jon Jon), Rachel McAdams (Maureen Hope), Miguel Gomez (Miguel Escobar); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Rosenberg, Stuart Parr, David Schiff, Dylan Sellers, Ezra Swerdlow, Kurt Sutter, David Bloomfield, David Ranes, Gillian Zhao, Cary Cheng, Jonathan Garrison, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein; the Weinstein Company; 2015)
“A bland middling boxing drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A bland middling boxing drama that knocked me silly with all its conventional blows. Director Antoine Fuqua(“Shooter”/”Brooklyn’s Finest”/”The Equalizer“) and writer Kurt Sutter fire away with a barrage of boxing cliches until the movie mercifully is over. It borrows its cliches from a laundry list of illustrious boxing films such as Raging Bull,” “Body and Soul,” “The Set-Up,” “Fat City,” “Rocky,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “The Champ”.
Jake Gyllenhaal superbly plays Billy Hope, the southpaw blue collar hero, who started out as an orphan in the rough “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood of Manhattan. He’s the former light heavyweight champ who is always sporting some kind of body bruise. Now the Great White Hope, the down-on-his-luck fighter, is struggling to make his big comeback and regain his manhood. Because of his history of beatings in the ring, his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) urges him to quit the sport and live happily ever after in their mansion. The couple have a doting 11-year-old daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). But the boxer has a large posse of hangers-on he listens to, who are his chorus of yes men. There’s also a new gritty solid trainer (Forest Whitaker). Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson plays one of his shifty former managers.
Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) plays a trash-talking rival, who has a nasty outside-of-the-ring physical spat with Billy.
The pic becomes totally predictable and irritating when the wife dumps the ex-champ, about 30 minutes into the film, and thereby the boxer attempts his comeback, moves on from seeking revenge to seeking redemption for his violent past, and must prove to child services that he has resolved his anger-management conflict before he will be allowed custody of the child.
It’s about as interesting as your average preliminary fight, except for a bulked up Gyllenhaal proving himself a compelling watch even while working with such a weak script.
REVIEWED ON 11/13/2015 GRADE: C+