Review: Against the Ropes

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  February 20, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

There have been great boxing movies like Rocky, The Champ, and of course the historic Raging Bull. There were even some more average but enjoyable boxing films like Goldie and the Boxer, Gladiator, and Streets of Gold. But in the new film, Against the Ropes, it seems to have forgotten where the heart of the sport.

In Against the Ropes, Meg Ryan plays Jackie Kallen, a secretary at a local sporting arena who keeps her degrading job because her first passion, boxing, is just inches away. Her knowledge and quick responses often land her in rough water. It isn't until one of these quick remarks lands her face to face with local mob boss Larocca (Tony Shalhoub) that her dream becomes a reality. In a joke, Larocca sells Kallen the rights to washed up boxer, Devon Green (Tory Kittles), for just one dollar. Eventually Kallen meets Luther Shaw (Omar Epps) and a legacy is born.

From that one joke, Kallen went on to become the most successful female boxing promoter in the history of the sport. Her story is noble and the story could have made for a great film about heart, perseverance, and of course Jackie's passion, boxing. Then what happened?

First off, the film's tone reflects more a movie of the week or an afternoon special than a gritty hard-edged boxing success story. Even Michael Kamen's score sounds like one of those Women's Television Network movie anthems. Kamen has been more magical and he will be greatly missed since he passed on last year.

The film focuses primarily on Jackie, and more on her wardrobe than the grit and meat of her story. She is projected in a stern and poignant light, which of course could have something to do with the film's executive producer being Jackie herself. We never really do shed blood or feel any connection to the character because we have a hard time seeing the world through her eyes. I can see that she loves the sport and made sacrifices, but nothing feels real or emotional.

Ryan's approach to the character of Jackie is admirable as she does her very best to play Jackie the way she really is. The accent, her walk, wardrobe, and demeanor all seem like caricatures, but in fact are the way the real woman actually is. In that small aspect I guess the film does have a minor moment.

The boxing matches consisted of Epps throwing two punches and Ryan screaming victory. The film's emotional final fight is so staged and overflowing with cliché-ridden dialogue that I am surprised director and co-star Charles S. Dutton didn't bust a gut laughing. One line in particular made me want to scream with laughter at the film and in some reasons it sums up what the film is about. Strong and wise, Dutton leans over to Epps his fighter and says, "Son, sometimes in a boxing match a fight breaks out."

Against the Ropes could be the worst boxing movie ever made because it isn't about boxing at all. We needed a hard-edged story that focused on both Jackie and the boxer. We needed a well-rounded story that had a primary focus on the sport than on Ryan's leopard print wardrobe. If this film was a gritty "Erin Brockovich-styled" HBO biopic focused on boxing, it would have been amazing. Sadly it isn't. (1 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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