Against The Ropes

"Weak"

Against The Ropes Review


It's pretty rare that a movie's title describes the experience of viewing it. Against the Ropes is that uncommon example: You're on the losing end from the opening bell.

Scheduled to open last year, Against the Ropes is inspired by the life of boxing promoter Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan). When we first meet Kallen, her career is going nowhere. She's stuck working for a Cleveland arena executive, who treats her like a nicer version of Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks.

Jackie's life needs a change, and it comes after a tiff with Cleveland's premiere boxing promoter and her arch nemesis (Tony Shalhoub). The promoter offers the plucky Kallen a washed-up fighter for a dollar. Jackie, recognizing that this could jumpstart her life, buys Devon Green's contract.

Green turns out to be a none-too friendly crack fiend. The meeting between Kallen and the fighter seems destined for bloodshed, before a pissed off local (Omar Epps) beats the stuffing out of Green and his corpulent drug buddy. Kallen is at first petrified, but then impressed. She follows the young man, whose name is Luther Shaw, and after some pleading and a plate of chicken wings, a partnership is formed. Kallen then rounds out her crew with an expert trainer (director Charles S. Dutton) to help get their new pupil to the top.

Obstacles, of course, are thrown in their way, in the form of Shalhoub's evil promoter and the sexist world of boxing. Those problems are largely excised from the film though, so we never know why it should be so hard for a woman to succeed in boxing, or see the real side of Shalhoub's ego. Shalhoub is a hell of a good actor, and with a better script, he could have had a ball with the role. It's too bad that Cheryl Edwards' screenplay has him sneering 85 percent of the time.

Ryan, Dutton, and Epps don't help themselves; I've seen more chemistry between random strangers at bus stops. The three characters have reasons they need to succeed (Luther to leave the ghetto, Dutton's trainer to prove that he belongs in boxing), but everyone acts like they're in the beginning stages of a read-through, except for Ryan, who acts with such brassy, look-at-me zeal that you can't wait for her scenes to end. Her performance, reminiscent of Robin Williams' work in Patch Adams and Julia Roberts' charisma-free turn in Erin Brockovich, kills any sympathy or interest you have for Kallen. That's a bit of problem, considering how Kallen's life is the movie.

I am a fan of Ryan's work, but she just does not have the acting range or the innate toughness to play what Against the Ropes demands. The miscasting becomes even more apparent when she's dressed like Britney Spears, acting tough and uttering lines like, "You're da bomb." I know the trend of glam actresses getting gritty is in full swing, but can we draw the line right here, right now?

With no cast chemistry and no involving conflicts, the flaws in Against the Ropes become that much more apparent and intolerable. We know that the successful partnership will be threatened, we know someone's going to make a rousing speech, and we know that a final showdown is necessary. Dutton would have been wise to watch Rudy, a similarly themed movie he starred in, for some pointers. Every time I watch Rudy, I live and die with the plucky half-pint (Sean Astin) and his desire to make the Notre Dame football team. You don't want to know my emotional state at the finale.

At the end of Against the Ropes, I didn't feel anything for anybody, especially for Jackie Kallen, the character. The only thing I felt was that Meg Ryan needed to put on a pair of loose jeans and a sweatshirt, and fast.

DVD extras are limited: Just two featurettes about the making of the film and the real Jackie Kallen.

Ready to rumple.



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

Director: , (na)Robert W. Cort

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

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