Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw.

Southpaw is one of the better boxing movies I’ve seen in recent years. Jake Gyllenhaal transforms himself as Billy Hope, a boxer at the top of the world with a beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and daughter (Oona Laurence). He loses everything, Rocky V-style, and must fight for redemption and the custody of his child.

Forest Whitaker plays Billy’s unorthodox trainer; it’s reminiscent of the role Burgess Meredith played in the Rocky films. Yes, I’m comparing this movie to Rocky in many ways, because it is clear director Antoine Fuqua drew much of his inspiration from that series.

Gyllenhaal put himself through a rigorous training process to become a convincing fighter, and he certainly looks the part in the ring. Outside of the ring, Billy mumbles a lot, which makes sense considering the number of blows he’s taken to the head. It’s a typically great performance from Gyllenhaal, who rises above the moments where the script becomes a little too conventional.

Laurence, who reminds of a young Natalie Wood, does strong work as the daughter who has to put up with a dad who can’t seem to get his act together.

Southpaw is playing at theaters across the valley.