Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent, Oona Laurence, Naomie Harris
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
I don’t give two shits what anyone thought about this movie. Or even what I thought about this movie. What you need to know is that Jake Gyllenhaal is fucking brilliant in this movie. Yeah, the movie itself has some problems, but none of them are Gyllenhaal’s. I’m willing to throw down and say this is his career best. Yes.
So, even though the movie has issues, I would still say you need to see Gyllenhaal in this film. Especially if you’re a fan of his. You owe it to yourself. Gyllenhaal started his career playing mostly quiet, lonely, nerdy types. Films like Moonlight Mile, Donnie Darko, October Sky all solidified who Jake was going to be as an actor. Then he did Jarhead, and he changed all that. Suddenly, Jake could be tough, dark, and dangerous too. No longer was he a sweet puppy dog, No, he was a badass. Here, he’s capitalized on all those roles. This is what Jarhead prepared him for. This is what End Of Watch prepared him for.
Here, he plays loose cannon Billy Hope (I automatically deduced a point for naming the protagonist, a boxer, Hope). We see him at the top of his career. Undefeated. Beating everyone in sight. Then some upstart wants to fight him. Billy won’t give him the time of day, words are exchanged, and Billy’s wife (McAdams) becomes a casualty. She was his glue. She held him together. He completely unravels. Mentally unstable, physically unstable, he seeks revenge… he seeks a way out… he explores every option till finally the state steps in and takes his daughter away. That becomes the reality check he needs to get his life together, get his daughter back, and be the man his wife always wanted him to be.
It’s a killer performance from Gyllenhall, one that I fear will be forgotten about come January. It’s July, the film is just good, not great, and people forget films like this. They forget film where you can’t even understand what 50 Cent is saying. Seriously? I could barely understand him. He needs subtitles. The scene with McAdams by the pool… I have no idea what he was saying. Mumbles. 50 Mumbles. The rest of the cast is on point though. Oona Laurence reminds me of a young Mae Whitman, which is a positive thing considering Mae is still working.
Fuqua directs a sometimes frustratingly long film. We get that he’s in his depressed state, but we don’t need 20 minutes of Gyllenhall’s anger and depression, running through every possible option. He contemplates suicide more than once (we really only need once), and goes for revenge… but then has no follow through, or ever really considers a return to that. I get that you didn’t want to turn your hero into a villain, but better writing and editing in the midsection would have helped the film, which in turn helps Gyllenhaal.
Jake Gyllenhaal gave his all for this film, and it’s the best performance of the year so far. Go out and see it.
FINAL GRADE: B