Southpaw (2015)

There’s a great moment in Southpaw when boxer Billy Hope (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and his weight gain) gives a speech at a charity event.  It’s supposed to be a ‘look at me now’ moment, ‘I climbed the ladder out of poverty’, ‘this foundation made me what I am’ etc.  And you can’t help but look at him.  Broken and used, the poor boy who gets to drink with the powerful because he’s willing to take a beating.  He’s got money but I don’t wake up with blood pouring out of my mouth so I can live without that.  That’s one of a number of things that this film could have been about but isn’t.

Moments after this speech the film becomes something very different indeed, or at least it keeps threatening to.  It keeps wandering down side roads but falls flat because it keeps finding it’s way back to only the most well trodden paths.  Oh so Forest Whitaker is different to other coaches so lets throw in a last minute cynical emotional spanner to get him back on board.  Billy looks like he might change, nah because we want to see him punch someone.

Director Antoine Fuqua has never quite recaptured the energy or interest of Training Day (2001).

Nightcrawler (2014)

Lou Bloom knows how to trade.  He’s the main character in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler.  He’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal, maybe the performance of the year, and Nightcrawler is easily the best film of the year.

It’s all there in the first ten minutes.  The electric urban L.A. landscape, the unease of Bloom’s company, his performance where there should be a personality, his ruthless eye for a ‘trade’, the learning and watching, the tension.  All that in the messy acquisition of a watch.

This is the best film of the year because it strikes a perfect tone and commits to it.  It launches a character and runs with him without going down the obvious, easy and well-trodden paths.

This is a film with real pulse.

Highly Recommended.