I just got home from seeing an early showing for Southpaw, written by Kurt Sutter and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and I am thoroughly impressed.
I’ll put it out there that I have pretty much disliked every movie with Jake Gyllenhaal I have ever seen. Bubble Boy, The Day After Tomorrow, Brokeback Mountain, Brothers, pass, pass, pass, pass. He always seemed like a really good actor I just couldn’t stand any of his roles, I couldn’t relate to or root for any of his characters in the slightest. But I feel like Gyllenhaal was made for this movie. He plays the role amazingly.
Basically, it’s a rags to riches story after the riches. Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) and his wife were orphans raised in the system without a dime to their name, they meet, fall in love, get married, and have a kid. He becomes a champion boxer, provides an amazing life for his family. Sounds good, the end. And it would have been except for a series of crappy events that befalls him and his family.
Instead of rags to riches, this is actually a story of redemption. I often hear about fighting, that what matters most is getting back up on your feet when you’ve been knocked down. Billy Hope doesn’t just get knocked down in the ring, but he gets utterly knocked down in life, and has to learn how to piece it back together and fight his way back, physically, emotionally, and figuratively.
Kurt Sutter’s penchant for gritty dramas really translates well from the TV set to the big screen. I’m not sure how much experience he has away from television series like Sons of Anarchy and The Shield, but he did a phenomenal job writing the story for Southpaw. In true Sutter fashion, Kurt took your favorite characters life and turned it on its head, though Sutter is not quite as merciless with main characters as say, George R.R. Martin.
Director Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to action and drama, making such movies as Training Day, Shooter, and The Equalizer. He did an amazing job squeezing every inch of talent of his cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachael McAdams, and Forest Whitaker are all seasoned actors so the bar was pretty high, and they soared right past it. Even Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) who only moonlights as an actor carried his weight on screen.
The story is pretty straight forward and we’ve seen it dressed up differently with other movies like The Fighter, Warrior, and Rocky, so there’s really no surprise or award for originality, but Southpaw is still a very enjoyable movie and worth seeing. It’s probably the biggest fight movie we’ll see for a while until the Rocky spinoff movie Creed hits theaters later in 2015, so if you’ve got the itch to see guys kick the crap out of each other, go catch Southpaw.
Overall, I give Southpaw an 7/10, and a 9/10 for nail biting experience.
I’ve been an avid fan of Sons of Anarchy since it first aired back in 2008. SOA lasted a lot longer than people expected. Series creator Kurt Sutter originally didn’t plan on the show lasting any more than 3 seasons, but with record high ratings and level of viewers, the show was stretched out to 7 seasons. I would say that with the exception of Season 3, the entire series was amazing. Here is what the show is, and meant to me. (Spoiler alerts ahead).
Sons was dark, it was edgy, suspenseful, hilarious, bloody and violence, and at times it was even heartbreaking *cough Opie Cough*. Most importantly, it was honest and faithful. In that honesty, the show never pulled any punches. It didn’t take the easy route. It didn’t run your characters to the edge of a cliff and work up a nail biter, just to reel them back in like some bullshit CW TV show. Sons would kick him (or her) right off. Fan favorites, show veterans, women, and children. In Sons of Anarchy, nothing is sacred.
Sons of Anarchy is not dickless like Vampire Diaries
It was faithful and ‘stuck to the script’. Kurt Sutter once had a quote on the SOA website blasting other studios for having no balls. SOA has balls. Big balls. They would go there. No other TV show would have had the balls to air anything remotely close to the Season 2 or Season 6 Premiers. It was also faithful to the viewers, and wouldn’t cut the story or viewers short, just to make filming easier. The 60 minute show would frequently air 75 or 90 minute episodes, usually 2 per season, the entire sixth season was 90 minute episodes, and the series finale crept up on two hours. Does your TV show do that?
If all you know about the show is what you’ve seen on the commercials or ads, then you haven’t the slightest idea what the show actually is. Get past the criminals, the bikes, beards, guns, skulls, and highways and show has a lot of meaning and depth to it, which I have explained below.
The show, and specifically the series finale was ripe with religious innuendo. The bread and the wine left by the homeless woman was obviously a reference to Jesus, and the sacrifice he made. Whereas Jesus sacrificed himself to cleanse the sins of his fellow man, Jax in his final days did the dirty work necessary to prevent his brothers from having to commit to sin at all. They get to live free of punishment, because of Jax’s actions. The way Jax died, arms spread out, also ringed of Jesus Christ. Heck, even Jax and Jesus both start with J, as did both of their father’s, John and Joseph. But that could be stretching.
After years of fans wondering “what’s the deal with that homeless lady?” Jax finally asked the question outright in the series finale.
Was she Death? Was she God? Time? I think she was Fate, but more importantly, she was a harbinger, or omen. She presented herself to numerous characters over the course of the show, but usually to Jax and Gemma. The common thread here is she always appeared just before a wave of change, such as before Jax’s mission to lead the club away from crime, or before his final rampage.
The last thing the homeless women gave to Jax in their final encounter was her blanket, as if to give him comfort or solace. She knew what he was going to do, and that gesture reassured him of his path. Not only that, the blanket itself was instrumental in the execution (no pun intended) of his plan, before offing August Marks.
Most importantly, when Jax wore the blanket, he looked like the Grim Reaper – Death – which the show alluded to all the time. That was actually some scary shit.
The show is all about family, and what you would do to protect them. I think this show’s answer to that question is “anything”. And what happens when one of your loved ones hurts another. The problem is that one man’s path to protect his family might cross paths with another, and when that happens, we witness anarchy.
This was no more evidenced than by Gemma’s longstanding and heated relationship with Tara, and their tug of war of influence over Jax and the kids.
Martyrdom and self-sacrifice was as big a theme as any in this show. Jax and Juice selling their souls to protect the club. Tig sacrificing himself to avenge and protect his daughters. Gemma hiding her rape to keep up the morale of her family and the club. Tara sacrificing a promising career and future to love a criminal and raise his son from another woman.
But then there is the sacrifice. You know what I’m talking about. The moment that stands out tallest among them all: When Opie sacrificed himself to the prison guards to save his brothers. Without even any context, this scene was the most heart wrenching of the entire show. But why? Because Opie had already lost so much to the club. Of all the club members, he had spent the most time in prison because a fellow member betrayed him. Then Opie was set up to look like a rat, and in a case of mistaken identity his wife was viciously murdered at the hands of the club. Then, in an effort to cover it up, Opie’s father was also killed by the club president. It seems so unfair, because Opie had given so much already. But Opie also had nothing else to lose. The club was all he had, so for him self-sacrifice was the only move he had.
For those who are well read, Opie and this scene reminded me of the Boxer the horse, and what befell him, in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.
You’d think the Sons – given their name – would be all about anarchy, but they aren’t. The Sons actually have a very organized system set up for how they handle their affairs, and deal with members and insubordination.
Despite this, the Sons do land themselves in a handful of shitty situations that at times seem very chaotic. Chaos is the protagonist of the entire series. It is amazing how one misstep, one lie, one deception, one bullet, can result in such a devastating and endless series of events.
Yeah, Sons of Anarchy sounds cool. But I think the point of the club’s name is not so much to literally mean “children of chaos”, but more likely, that we are all the byproduct of chaotic situations. Jax Teller is the show’s biggest testimony to that, and despite his actions or best intentions, he couldn’t change himself or his club. As my friend Brett tells me, a rock cannot change the river.
David vs. Goliath
This ties back into the religious innuendo, but the underdog narrative also makes for good story telling in general.
In season one, the sons are a big fish in a small pond, operating unopposed in their small, fictional town of Charming, California. They are in the minor leagues, and their protagonists are a rival small time motorcycle club, a street gang in Oakland, and some skinheads. As the show moves on, the threats escalate, and the enemies the Sons encounter get bigger and badder.
The Sons graduate, and clash with skinheads, rival MCs, the Aryan Brotherhood, the ATF, the IRA, the Russian mobs, the Chinese mafia, crooked cops, sadistic US Marshalls, Mexican drug cartels, and even the CIA.
The World Keeps Spinning
With a lot of cunning, the Sons (usually) ended up on top, by the skin of their teeth.
I think the message of the show is to keep on keeping on. No matter what adversity you face. The problems, the troubles, the confusion. Do the best you can with what you have, work hard and push through to make the best life you can for yourself, your family, and your children.
We’ll always be remembered, but the world keeps spinning long after we’re gone.