Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) surmounted incredible odds on his way to becoming the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Since he’d been abandoned by his mother at birth, he’d had to overcome many obstacles on his way to success.
However, he was fortunate enough to meet Maureen (Rachel McAdams) in the orphanage in which they were growing up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. The two fell madly in love and she would serve as the rock who kept him out of trouble, especially after he’s had a couple of brief stints behind bars.
As Billy worked his way up through the boxing ranks, the childhood sweethearts married and had a daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence). Maureen repeatedly inspired her husband to climb into the ring to channel his aggression positively, rather than entertain any ideas of blowing off steam in a self-destructive fashion.
By the time his record reached 43-0, Billy and his family were living beyond their means in a gaudy house where they conspicuously displayed the trappings of their new found wealth: flashy cars, gaudy jewelry, champagne, and so forth. However, with his parasitic entourage and a shady money manager, Jordan Mains (50 Cent), it was clear that he’d have to keep on winning in order to maintain his extravagant lifestyle.
Sure enough, after a terrible personal tragedy, Billy lost the title belt and found himself broke and back on the streets he’d worked so hard to escape. Abandoned by his hangers-on and by his manager, he ends up at a gym in Harlem run by an irascible trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker). The salty veteran, who is on the verge of retirement, reluctantly agrees to take on Billy on the condition that he would be willing to make some changes to his boxing skills.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film features another excellent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal who deserved Academy Award nominations for Nightcrawler (2014) and Prisoners (2013). In this movie he is nothing short of mesmerizing in his role as a desperate, disgraced champion on a mission to reclaim his title and his fortune.
Excellent (****) Rated R for violence and profanity. Running time: 123 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company.