Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the undefeated, undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world. He grew up as an orphan in the child services system, with little education and no skills. But he learn to use his fists and a desire to make something of himself into a lucrative career, and married his first love Maureen (Rachel McAdams). Maureen and their child Leila is Billy’s whole life, and he has provided a mansion for them to live in and all the trappings of a luxurious life they would never have dreamed of from their humble beginnings were it not for his prowess in the boxing ring.
Billy Hope has been fighting for a number of years, and as the saying goes, it not the years it’s the mileage. Hope’s fighting style is basically offense, and while he eventually wears down his opponents in the tradition of Rocky Marciano, he takes a lot of punishment in getting the victories. Maureen, the brains of the family, is seriously concerned about her husband’s physical well being. She advocates more rest and fewer fights, and she manages the finances and keeps an eye on the hangers-on that are part of a sports champion’s life.
But uneasy lies the head of he who wears the crown. Immediately after Billy Hope defends his title in Madison Square Garden, a young and talented Colombian fighter Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) is eager for a title shot with the champ. Escobar resorts to taunting and baiting Hope to get his attention and force the champ to agree to a fight. Ultimately, Escobar’s tactics lead to tragic results for a number of people.
This is a terrific film. It has elements of tragedy, greed, human frailties, hope and redemption mixed in to keep the viewer riveted to the story line. Jake Gyllenhaal got his body chiseled and buff as any real boxer could, and gives an Oscar worthy performance. The boxing scenes are authentic, as Gyllenhaal is actually throwing and taking real punches. Rachel McAdams does a fine job in her supporting role, as does old pro Forest Whitaker in his role as boxing trainer Tick Wills. This is a Weinstein Company production, and it is surprising they released the movie this early in the year, as it should compete for several Oscars, including Best Picture. Check it out; best boxing film since Raging Bull.
Dialogue Nuggets: Maureen to Billy before a fight – “Don’t get hit too much!”
Maureen to Billy after the fight – “Can you get your socks off?”
Escobar to Hope – “You ain’t never been hit by a real man.”
Maureen – “You’re going to be punch drunk in two years if you keep this up.”
Escobar – “I’ll take your belt and then your bitch!”
Tick Wills – “I’m going to introduce you to something new. It’s called defense.”
Tick Wills – “You go out there and kick his ass. I want to see Billy the Great!”