I think it is quite easy to say why people (including me) were looking forward to this film. No it was not because of the writer or the director - it was all Jake Gyllenhaal. I have not exactly stayed quiet on my thoughts on the guy ('Enemy') but that will not stop me from doing it again here. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely brilliant - but does the movie live up to his level?

If you have seen the mixed critical reaction and you have seen the rottentomatoes score you also seen precisely what I thought of the film. It really is quite a testament to Gyllenhaal's amazing skills as an actor when you imagine just how weak this movie would have been without him. At one point in the movie Gyllenhaal's character says "I'm going to tell you something" and the daughter tells him "I love you" and then that he is too predictable... everything that came after that pretty much describes what I thought of the rest of the film. "Formulaic" does not even begin to describe this film. It follows every single plot point and story beat you would have come to expect from a typical sports movie and the main problem is it neither tries to distract you from it nor does it try to do anything remotely clever to overcoming this problem. Following all the obvious beats might have worked if it was parodying sports movies - but this is not a David Wain film and it is quite obvious that is not what this was going for. With that said, this is not a bad film, in fact I cannot even call it a weak film thanks to Antoine Fuqua's sensitive direction and of course a magnificent performance by possibly the greatest actor working today (and if this dude does not get nominated and win multiple Oscars soon - The Academy and I are going to have a problem).

It is quite easy to see what Kurt Sutter was doing while writing this script. He sat on his couch watching every dramatic sports movie ever made and without even looking at the laptop monitor he wrote down whatever he saw on the television. Really though, this is not a bad screenplay. The dialogue is very good, the characters are multilayered and you really feel the chemistry between them. It is just a shame that its all in service of a story that has been told a million times before. This is a movie were the themes are quite literally the plot of the film - rising back up after getting knocked down by life. Then again like I said, that is the plot of so many other sports movies anyways.

Jake Gyllenhaal is... oh wait I already said it... well screw it... he is amazing. He completely embodies the look and feel of a boxer. He clearly loves what he does and you can see that in every single second he is on the screen and honestly I have felt this way in every single MOVIE I have seen him in. He was born to be an actor and the Academy cannot recognize that soon enough. But I shall not dedicate this entire review to his majestic performance (something I could easily do) so lets talk about the other actors in the film. Forest Whitaker is great as usual, I was hoping for some more development with his character but then again that was up to the screenplay, what Forest did with the character helped a lot and made the scenes with him and Gyllenhaal not feel completely one sided. Rachel McAdams had a smaller role than I expected but for the time she had - she knocked it out of the park. The best part of the entire first act was the chemistry between her and Gyllenhaal because even though there were not a lot of scenes with those two when you look at the grand scheme of things, I truly believed they had a history together and most importantly - that they loved each other very much.

It is important to note that even though this is a VERY unoriginal film - it is very compelling, entertaining and I can imagine quite a lot of people who do not think about films in the same way as I do REALLY liking it. There were quite a lot of moments were it touched the level of greatness. This is definitely not 'Rocky', it is definitely not 'Raging Bull', and it is definitely not 'The Fighter' but it is also definitely not a bad film. I was entertained and in the end, that is the most important part. No, I will probably not take anything from the film with me moving forward in life but I do not regret watching it. Although... could Billy Hope seriously not do anything more to find his wife's killer?


- Lucas


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