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Against the Ropes Review

By Shawn McKenzie 02/24/2004

I understand that Meg Ryan is trying to break out of the romantic comedy category, but I donít think that the long-delayed Against the Ropes is a great step.

 

Jackie Kallen (Ryan) has been a fan of boxing all of her life.  As a young girl (Skye McCole Bartusiak, Jackie as a young girl), she idolized her uncle Ray Ray (Sean Bell), a champion boxer himself, who trained at Kallenís Gym, owned by her father Pete (Dean McDermott.)  Twenty years later, she works in the boxing world, but it is in the basement of the Cleveland Coliseum for Irving Abel (Joe Cortese.)  She works with her friend Renee (Kerry Washington) in the male-dominated world of boxing, but is able to hold her own with her knowledge and attitude.  One person who especially bothers Jackie is local boxing promoter Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub.)  His latest boxer, Devon Green (Tory Kittles), has just lost a match, and in an argument with him about Greenís potential, Sam sells her the boxerís contract for a dollar.  A local sports reporter named Gavin Reese (Timothy Daly), who witnessed the altercation, later reports about the sale on his show, ďThe Reese Report.Ē  Jackie then goes to visit her new boxer, only to discover that he is a crack-head.  While visiting Green, he gets into a drug-related brawl with dealer Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), and he impresses her with his fighting skills.  Jackie thinks that he is the best thing that she has seen since Marvin Haggler.  She makes him an offer to manage him as a professional boxer, an offer he turns down at first.  He agrees to it after he realizes that his other options arenít too great.  She then hires manager Felix Reynolds (Charles S. Dutton), who was previously in retirement because he was tired of the game, to train the middleweight fighter.  She gets Luther an exhibition fight in Buffalo by convincing an old childhood acquaintance named Crisco (Adrian Devine) to let him have it at his venue by reminding him of all the favors that her father did for him.  Luther wins that fight, which leads to others, all of which he wins.  They are gunning for Samís top fighter, Pedro Hernandez (Juan Hernandez.)  As Jackieís fame increases, she starts to ignore the people that got her to where she is now.  This makes everyone mad.  Luther gets mad when she insults him at a press conference, and Gavin gets mad when she lets HBO cover a big fight instead of him.  Jackie needs to figure out how to get the respect back of her peers and keep the momentum going that she had started.

 

This movie was originally scheduled to be released last April, but it was pulled because Paramount, the movieís studio, was concerned they wouldnít be able to buy enough advertising in March and April to reach their target audience because of the war in Iraq.  It was then rescheduled for October of 2003, but it conflicted with Ryanís In the Cut and Duttonís Gothika.  Finally, it came out this month, but the wait wasnít completely worth it.

 

It isnít the worst movie Iíve seen, but itís just not that special.  I was thinking that the movie was possibly going to be of Oscar caliber, because it has a great cast and Dutton directed it.  This may have been his theatrical directorial debut, but he had already won an Emmy for directing the powerful HBO mini-series ďThe Corner.Ē  Also, Ryan has proven herself outside of the romantic comedy world before, in movies like Courage Under Fire and City of Angels.  In this one, I donít know where she was going.  I didnít feel her toughness, and her accent drove me nuts.  She was from Cleveland, yet the accent sounded like it was from BostonÖI think.  The movie is based on the real-life Jackie Kallen (though I think that they took huge liberties in her story), but since Iím not a boxing fan, I know little about the woman, so Iím not sure how accurately Ryan pegged her.  Iím fairly sure it was a little off though.

 

One thing that uped the cheese factor was actually something that a fellow critic warned me about.  It has the ďslow clapĒ near the end.  I wonít tell you why or what for, but when I saw it, I rolled my eyes.  This is a device that should never be used in a movie again that expects to be taken seriously.

 

Some movies are worth the wait, but Against the Ropes wasnít one of them.  I still have high hopes for Ryan as a dramatic actress and Dutton as a director, but this boring fight flick didnít win this round for me.

1/2

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