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Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Oona Laurence, Skylan Brooks, Beau Knapp, Rachel McAdams, Victor Ortiz, Rita Ora, Miguel Gomez, Dominic Colon, Malcolm Mays

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Give Jake Gyllenhaal praise where praise is due.

He’s no longer the goofy guy from Accidental Love nor his equally skinny Nightcrawler sensation-seeker.

Here Kurt Sutter’s screenplay provides him with the title role (originally intended for Eminem!) of Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Playing a professional boxer, Gyllenhaal has bulked up his physique really impressively which, allied with his powerful punching in the ring and his equally powerful acting in and out of the ring, adds up to an impressive, image- altering, performance.

At the start, when we see him triumphing in a bloody bout in Madison Square Gardens, he has everything.

Not only the title but also adulation all round, Rachel McAdams for his wife, a loving young daughter, all the money he could ask for and a palatial mansion.

But, after an unfortunate accident that robs him of his wife, he loses his good life, his title and his venal support team who leave him for pastures profitable.

His career rapidly hit the skids. He ends up broke and broken down – until, fortuitously, he finds new hope when he ends up in the run-down gym run by Forest Whitaker…

Gyllenhaal’s fine performance rightly dominates an otherwise seen-most-of-it-before story.

Only those cinemagoers who have somehow missed every single previous boxing picture from Rocky to Raging Bull and the raging bull that was Stallone versus De Niro in the laughable Grudge Match will fail to figure out exactly where Gyllenhaal is going.

Otherwise you need to be ready to duck time after time as director Antoine Fuqua fires cliché after plotline cliché at the audience. My recommendation is to take the predictable platitudes on the chin, get up on the count of three and return to enjoy watching Gyllenhaal impressively rise above much of his material.

The staging of the fights is impressive, Gyllenhaal wears the bloody results of punches to the face like hard-won medals and, while you could hardly call Southpaw a champion, it succeeds in getting up off the canvas at the count of nine time after time.

Familiar? Mostly. Watchable? Definitely.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Jul 2015