Against The Ropes

"Weak"

Against The Ropes Review


Famous female boxing manager Jackie Kallen's real life is quite a good story about perseverance and tenacity in the toughest and nastiest of men's worlds.

Kallen was once a journalist who early in her career talked the Rolling Stones into coming to her mom's house for dinner and an interview, and whose dogged single-mindedness landed her a 1976 exclusive with notoriously press-shy Detroit pitcher Mark "the Bird" Fidrych. But writing a story on boxer Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns led her to change careers, becoming a publicist and then a manager for several up-and-coming fighters in the 1980s -- a choice that was met with a lot of resistance in the sport. In fact, she got a cornerman's license because she wasn't being allowed in the ring with her clients. And she did all this while raising two daughters.

But the real Jackie Kallen has very little to do with "Against the Ropes," a grossly over-fictionalized biopic starring Meg Ryan as a frisky, charmingly trashy, tough-cookie version of Kallen who has a soundtrack of perky flutes and violins lending girl-power twinkle to everything she does -- and sucking all the sports credibility out of the movie.

This version of Kallen is a secretary for a Cleveland sports arena manager who decides to take a boxer under her wing after he's been dumped by Ohio's biggest, most crooked boxing promoter (Tony Shalhoub) -- a choice she makes mostly to spite the kingpin and her chauvinist boss, both of whom see her as the skirt who brings coffee. They must not know that she practically grew up in a family-owned gym where she learned the ropes from her friendly pug uncle despite the disapproval of her mean ol' sexist daddy.

In one of the film's biggest contrivances, she drives to the ghetto ("twinkle-twinkle!" insists the happy-go-lucky score), discovers her crack-addict fighter being beaten up by his dealer (Omar Epps), and jettisons the chump in favor of the thug.

Training montages ensue with all the requisite hardships and dime-philosophy dialogue. "The world is not an oyster," says Ryan with a straight face. "It's a smelly tank full of dirty sharks, and it's not that easy to swim.") Then after Kallen faces down and outwits those darn sexists with all the power in the sport ("She doesn't get a fight in this town!" barks Shalhoub), director Charles S. Dutton delves into some of the cleanest, tamest, least convincing boxing scenes in movie history -- with himself in the ring as Epps' back-from-retirement mentor/trainer.

The film makes very little mention of its characters' lives outside the ring (apparently Epps just walked away from the drug trade without consequences) except for on-cue conflicts that arise when Kallen's growing celebrity (talk shows, magazine covers, etc.) screws up her priorities. Setting herself up for a slap-on-the-wrist Movie Life Lesson, she hogs the spotlight and abandons an exclusive-coverage promise to a local sportscaster pal (Tim Daly) and climbs into bed with HBO instead. But that betrayal is patched up with little more than a last-reel, all-is-forgiven Movie Apology, which addresses neither Kallen's lack of integrity nor her overconfidence.

While it's hard to blame the talented Ryan for wanting to branch out from her romantic-comedy pigeonhole, the actress is miscast as Kallen. She comes off as opinionated but harmless, and more tarty (thanks to her Brockovich-by-way-of-Jersey wardrobe) than tough. If "Against the Ropes" were a comedy, it would be called "Pugilistally Blonde."

The rest of the cast is adequate in off-the-shelf roles. Epps lets his character's street-fighting style show subtly through his training as a boxer, and Shalhoub is particularly biting as the egomaniacal big dog of Cleveland boxing, which often comes as a relief in a production that is only a small step above a TV movie. But the more rounds "Against the Ropes" stays on its feet, the more hackneyed it becomes, eventually betraying its complete creative bankruptcy with one of those short-hand feel-good scenes in which one person starts slowly applauding the heroine and gradually a whole room full of people joins in.

Why did screenwriter Cheryl Edwards feel the need to substitute this woman's extraordinary real life with a story of such coy, lukewarm Hollywood banality? It's hard to say. But if I were Kallen, I'd be hopping mad.



Against The Ropes

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Friday 20th February 2004

Box Office USA: $5.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $6.6M

Budget: $39M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 12%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 116

IMDB: 5.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Jackie Kallen, as Tony Shalhoub, as Irving Abel, as Renee, as Luther Shaw, Charles S. Dutton as Felix Reynolds

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.