A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Southpaw is a deeply compelling drama (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams) that shows boxing at its most brutal and dispiriting. Violent fight scenes include close-ups of gaping wounds, boxers vomiting blood, knockout punches, and more. Plus, a gun goes off in the middle of a brawl, killing an important character. But almost even harder to watch is the way the movie shows how the sport, depending on how you approach it, can change you and lure hangers-on. Expect plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), some drinking, implied sex, scantily clad women, and plenty of label-flashing. But the main characters have been devoted to each other since they were in their teens, and they love their daughter.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the light heavyweight boxing champ, undefeated and beloved. But after his most recent fight, his wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), tells him she's worried. The bout was more brutal than usual, exacting costs both physical and emotional, and Billy needs a break. Mo just wants him and their daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence), to have some time on their own, enjoying life as a family, with no hangers-on and no manager (50 Cent) hungry to make the next lucrative deal -- in other words, another fight -- for Billy. But at a charity event, Billy is hounded by a fellow boxer who's been challenging him to jump in the ring. A gun goes off, setting off a chain of events that undoes Billy and leads him to the fight of his life: putting himself back together and reuniting with his daughter. And, perhaps, with the help of coach Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) at a back-to-basics boxing gym, Billy will have the chance to be great at the sport once more.
Is it any good?
Far from original, SOUTHPAW ticks off every boxing film standard: Everyman fighter, ultra-supportive wife, Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes story line culminating in the fight of the century. Southpaw even features a hard-driving hip-hop soundtrack that meshes perfectly with jump-roping scenes and footwork-and-punching practice -- shot beautifully by director Antoine Fuqua -- and the requisite encouraging speech that inspires one man to dig deep for one last shot at redemption. They're all part of this movie, and we've seen them all before.
And yet Southpaw is a tour-de-force, thanks in large part to outstanding performances from the cast, most notably an utterly transformed Gyllenhaal. He's ferocious and vulnerable and believable, sometimes all at once. See the movie for Gyllenhaal alone, though it helps that nearly all of his co-stars are also in fine form. He and McAdams share a great chemistry, and he clicks with Whitaker, too -- a crucial element in this genre. When the coach and his chastened pupil go to battle in Las Vegas for what may be the biggest fight of Billy's life, we want to be there with them to witness it all, even if we already know what will happen next.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of the boxing violence in Southpaw. How does it compare to what you might seen in an action or horror movie? Which affects you more? Why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Are Mo and Billy role models? Why or why not? Why do you think Mo is suspicious of the members of Billy's circle? Is she right to worry that they don't have the best intentions?
Billy and Mo's daughter ends up in foster care. Talk to your kids about what that means and the events that led there. How are Mo and Billy depicted as parents?
- In theaters: July 24, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2015
- Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Curtis Jackson
- Director: Antoine Fuqua
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, and some violence
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