Against the Ropes (12A)

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Review byMatthew Turner23/03/2004


Two out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

Cliché-laden drama that tries and fails to punch above its weight, despite a likeable cast.

Against the Ropes is a fictionalized drama “inspired” by the real-life story of Jackie Kallen, America’s first female boxing manager. Unfortunately, the film tries to take on too much, attempting to be both glossy boxing drama and inspirational women’s picture, with the result that it fails to satisfy on either count.

Ghetto Punch Up

Meg Ryan takes yet another step away from romcoms as Jackie Kallen, a woman who has grown up around the boxing ring and works as a secretary to a stadium director. When she accidentally walks in on a ghetto punch-up, she decides that local tough guy Luther Shaw (Omar Epps) might just have what it takes to turn professional, so she coaxes boxing coach Felix (director Charles S. Dutton) out of retirement (in time-honoured cliché fashion) and sets herself up as America’s first female boxing manager.

However, she meets with some stiff opposition from the male-dominated institution, not least in the form of boxing kingpin Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub).

With actor-director Dutton calling the shots, it isn’t surprising that the performances are the strongest part of the film. Epps, in particular, is convincing as the fighter trying to haul himself out of the ghetto, and there’s good support from Dutton himself. As for Meg Ryan, she does a good job, although it takes a good thirty minutes to get used to her thick Detroit accent and another fifteen to stop giggling at her “sexy” wardrobe of low-cut tops and tight PVC trousers.

Sadly, however, two other main roles are badly underwritten – that of sportscaster Timothy Daly and Kallen’s sassy best friend Renee (Kerry Washington), who somehow becomes Luther’s girlfriend, despite not having any scenes with him.

Weak Script Causes Problems

The main problem is the weak script – the film can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to concentrate on Ryan’s rise to success, Luther’s prowess in the ring or the relationship between Luther and Jackie. The result it that it punches weakly from all three angles.

Jackie’s story is riddled with badly-handled clichés, the fight scenes themselves are poorly directed and badly shot, often taking place in long shot, and the film doesn’t even give Jackie a love interest – Daly’s underwritten part falls by the wayside and a potentially interesting subplot where Jackie appears to be falling for Luther goes nowhere.

The irony is that Jackie’s real story might have been a lot more interesting – in real life she was a wife and mother as well as being a manager, so it seems odd that screenwriter Cheryl Edwards neglected to concentrate on the potential tension involved in balancing those roles.

In short, Against the Ropes has the feel of a TV movie. It’s watchable enough thanks to committed performances all round, but fails to deliver any knock-out blows.

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Against the Ropes (12A)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 07:51

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