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Film / Southpaw

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Southpaw is a 2015 sports drama from writer Kurt Sutter and director Antoine Fuqua. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, and 50 Cent. It was released on July 24th, 2015.

Billy "The Great" Hope (Gyllenhaal) is the Junior Middleweight boxing champion at the top of his game, until he loses his wife Maureen (McAdams) during a brawl at a fundraiser ball. After falling from grace due to drugs and his drive for revenge, Billy seeks help from former boxer Tick Wills (Whitaker) to help get him back on his feet.


This film contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Maureen is shot by accident during a brawl.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Billy calls Maureen "Mo".
  • Artifact Title: The movie itself is called Southpaw, as in - a left-handed boxer, who fights in non-orthodox stance (called the "Southpaw stance"). However Jake Gyllenhaal is not left-handed and fights in the standard "Orthodox stance". This did cause a lot of disgust in the boxing community. The movie addresses its own title, however, in a small but crucial plot point: Billy trains in a Southpaw stance to become what is known as a switch-hitter (i.e a boxer who can switch from Orthodox to Southpaw at the drop of a hat due being trained in both). In the climax, Billy knocks down Escobar by suddenly switching to a Southpaw stance and surprising him with a left-handed uppercut.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jordan turns out to be this — He'll act friendly to anyone he can make a profit off of.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Maureen is still dead, but Billy won the fight against Escobar, he's a better man, and his daughter is still with him.
  • Book Ends:
    • Someone tells Billy "Let's just go home". It was Maureen the first time and Leila the second.
    • Escobar making an insulting comment about Maureen greatly angering Billy.
  • The Cameo: Some boxing public figures show up in the climax. Part of the legendary HBO commentary team (Jim Lampley and Roy Jones Jr) is commentating on the final fight, and the ring announcer is the likewise legendary Jimmy Lennon Jr.
  • Character Development: Billy starts off as a hot-head who will pick a fight for any provocation. Losing his wife, losing his money, losing custody of his daughter, training with Tick helps Billy to control his anger.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During the Training Montage, Tick is shown training Billy how to be a switch-hitter (i.e switching between right-handed/Orthodox and left-handed/Southpaw boxing stances). In the climax, he knocks down Escobar by rapidly switching from Orthodox to a Southpaw stance and delivering a left-handed uppercut.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Billy and Maureen knew each other since they were both 12.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Tick, who normally is against swearing, unleashes a few good swears after he breaks down from learning of Hoppy's death.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Billy was an orphan who grew up on "the streets" and was incarcerated twice.
  • Dead Star Walking: Rachel McAdams is gone by the end of the first half hour.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Miguel is visibly horrified when he sees that Maureen was shot.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Billy goes from a top boxer to a janitor at a rundown gym.
  • Fatal Flaw: Billy's temper — it indirectly led to his wife's Accidental Murder, forced him to sell his home because of the money problems, and temporarily lose custody of Leila.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Invoked. At one point during her time in foster care, Leila stops wearing her glasses because "they're not cool".
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Billy's fatal flaw as seen when he usually can't control it but uses it to his advantage in boxing and the more he gets hit the harder he fights. His temper became his downfall as it he was sick of Miguel insulting him so he retaliates and his wife ends up getting shot.
  • Happily Married: Billy and Maureen were in a loving marriage.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: Jordan goes with whatever boxer can help him make the most money.
  • Jerkass: Jordan turns out to be this, as he does whatever he can to make money and doesn't care about how others feel.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Billy is a monumental jerkass at times in the first half of the film, even accounting for his bad luck. He walks out on his manager, can't keep his mouth shut during the custody hearing for his daughter (nearly leading the judge to find him in contempt), and initially snubs Tick's offer of work. Fortunately for him, he begins to wise up soon after. And even before his Character Development, his redeeming qualities were his love for Maureen and Leila.
  • Karma Houdini: Miguel's brother Hector, who gets away with outright murder and apparently is never even arrested.
  • Improvised Training: Tick's first training routine for Billy involves tying ropes across a ring and teaching him simply to adopt a more protective fighting stance.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Billy (a grown man roughly in his 30s) forms a friendship with Hoppy (an adolescent) at Tick's boxing gym, and is devastated by his murder.
  • The Lost Lenore: Losing Maureen emotionally wrecked Billy.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Hoppy got his name because his mother liked rabbits.
    • Billy Hope being so-named also relates to his main character arc in the movie of regaining his hope and willpower to live.
  • Missing Mom: Maureen becomes this to her and Billy's daughter, Leila, after she dies from a gunshot wound.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: One of Billy's friends is mistaken for shooting Maureen, when it was really Hector Escobar. It's implied that the mistake was corrected.
  • Offing the Offspring: Hoppy was shot by his father while trying to protect his mother.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Tick, who is adamant that no one curses in his gym, begins doing so after hearing about Hoppy getting killed by his father.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Maureen's death sets up the entire plot.
  • Precision F-Strike: The film contains its fair share of swearing, but the most jarring comes from Leila when she outright tells Billy, "You fucked up."
  • Rags to Riches: Billy apparently started off a poor orphan before his boxing career gave him and family a mansion and put Leila in a private school. Unfortunately...
  • Riches to Rags: Due to Billy's Fatal Flaw which led to accumulating money problems he loses a vast majority of his wealth.
  • Sanity Slippage: After the death of his wife Maureen, Billy starts to lose his mind and goes through a lot. Signs show him:
    • Loading a gun go on the hunt for Hector and pointing a gun at a girl who had his kids and sticking said gun in his friend Jon Jon's face.
    • Hearing voices and smashing his room of achievements.
    • Using drugs to numb his pain and ends up getting him in a car crash.
    • The fight with Turay pretty much sums it up as it shows he's not trying his best and nor is he fighting very hard. He spends most of the time looking for his dead wife in the crowd. Then headbutted the referee which may have been an accident but he still did it.
  • Shower of Angst: Billy does this after his loss against Turay.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Hoppy only appears for a couple of scenes and dies, but his death is what pushes Tick to help Billy train for his fight against Escobar.
  • Tame His Anger: What most of the characters are trying to do to Billy.
  • Title Character: "Southpaw" refers to Billy Hope.
  • Title Drop: Tick drops the title when he trains Billy for his fight with Escobar.
  • Took a Level in Badass: While Billy was a powerful fighter, he lacked any defensive technique. Training with Tick rectifies that.
  • Training Montage:
    • The first one was Tick training Billy after the latter (see Improvised Training).
    • The second was a dual one for Billy and Escobar as they prepare for their fight with each other.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Tick sees that much of Billy's boxing prowess comes down to his Hair-Trigger Temper rather than technique and tries to get him to think more in his bouts.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Billy confronts the woman in the run-down apartment with a gun but has to walk away as soon as he sees the children.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Leila, in a fit of anger, shouts that she wishes her father got killed instead of her mother.