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This movie is serviceable, but it ends up feeling like a less satisfying version of Rocky. It charts the decline and eventual rise (again) of bruising boxing champion Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose affinity for finishing every fight in an increasingly physically damaged state worries his wife (Rachel McAdams), who would be content with him retiring to their (his) rich lifestyle. However, personal tragedy and financial loss results in the loss of both Hope’s daughter (to social services) and his wealth, leaving him with the option of working in a rundown gym and changing his previously blunt, violent outlook on life in general.
Gyllenhaal and particularly Forest Whitaker as his new trainer provide good performances, but the movie feels clichéd and very familiar with its execution. It is particularly frustrating to see a movie showing the separation of family members by court appointment, as it has to manufacture emotional investment for the audience. The movie also doesn’t really know if it has a stance on the nature of sport and the media, as the cold professionalism of 50 Cent’s character as Hope’s-once manager is brought up, but never really addressed again. The film doesn’t know whether to embrace the excess of advertising and deals in the professional boxing circle, or slam it for the pragmatism of higher-level individuals because of where the largest dollar bill is currently attached.
On the other hand, the main fights in the film, for what little screen time they occupy, are visually appealing. The choreography is at least comprehensible, but the occasional cuts to POV shots feel a bit out of place in the sequence and, with a few sound effect changes and removal of blood, may just resemble something out of Wii Sports instead. This movie isn’t about left-handed people either; listening closely to Gyllenhaal’s mumbling proved that.