|"You got something on your shirt...."|
While it is Kurt Sutter's first screenplay, it is hard not to criticize him for penning a script with such a tough persona and yet following up with a story so safe. Perhaps this is because the premise has practically given everything away before the movie is even seen. When the only turning point in your film for the main character is when a key player is killed off, it kind of sets up the audience to already know how things will end. Everyone enjoys a well-respected return but it's also very predictable. If the loss of Hope's wife weren’t announced in the premise, maybe the death would've been a little more of a throw-off than a plot setup point. So the question is, why make a script with a tone so hard edge only to play it safe like every sequel made after Rocky (1976)? Sutter's only other flaw in his script is that after Hope's loss, the subplot of his wife's murder goes unsolved. It's not even mentioned as to if Hope just wants to forget or feels the rematch was enough - but it at least should be mentioned why.
However, besides these clerical issues everything else does work its best to make you forget about it. Jake Gyllenhaal and Oona Laurence have believable chemistry as a young father and daughter. Gyllenhaal definitely goes all out with his tough guy persona and pulls it off. Considering he's gone through multiple transformations for a lot of his films, it's no surprise here. Even for McAdams reduced role, she too is enjoyable to watch. Plus the supporting cast is well worth it. Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent provided good contrasts to the paths Billie Hope could take and whom he sides with in success. Young actor Skylan Brooks also helps bring some development to Gyllenhaal's role. Then there are appearances from Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz. As for Hope's main antagonist Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), the motivations are very two-dimensional. Although they could have been more developed, the focus was on Billie, not Escobar.
It does have a lot to be entertained with considering how believable the acting is, the emotional music, involving boxing matches and inventive camerawork. Yet with a tone that indulges in having less fluff, more rough, gruff, tough and buff, the script shouldn't play it so predictably. The outcome to this film can be seen even before the movie starts.
Points Earned --> 7:10