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:: Against The Ropes

This film was completed a long time ago yet was waiting for a good release time in the United States. It is inspired by the life of Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan), the first big-time female boxing promoter. There are all the normal cliches of a boxing movie, albeit without the sense of style that often characterises the great boxing films of the last sixty years.

Most of the thoughts in the film go towards Meg Ryan’s shaking off her sweet ‘n’ light persona. She is almost unrecognisable as the husky-voiced, power player who brings a new discovery to the ring. Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), a tough street thug whom Jackie sees as a fighter of great potential. Jackie is introduced as an overworked, under-appreciated secretary to boxing promoter Irving Abel (Joe Cortese). Eventually, she grabs an opportunity to manage Luther, despite opposition from the biggest promoter in the region, Larocca (Tony Shalhoub).

And so it goes that Jackie picks up fights for Luther and his wins make him hard to ignore. With the help of veteran trainer Felix Reynolds (Charles S Dutton), Jackie’s persistence pays off and Luther becomes a major contender. His success leads to media frenzy over this impressionable woman who then lets the success go to her head. Her ego starts to overshadow the progress of Luther towards a title shot. Obstacles arise and the characters seem to head in different directions as a championship fight looms for Luther. Jackie had taken her media coverage too seriously and sold out for the bright lights.

The inevitability of this film doesn’t make a match for some previously great films of this genre. To its credit, though, Against The Ropes avoids the pitfalls of not having Jackie Kallen presented with a heart of gold. She is as ruthless as the men she’s up against. But the boxing world is very “in-your-face” and little of this energy is conveyed in or out of the ring.

This is the directorial debut by veteran actor Charles S Dutton and his rookie rawness shows. There doesn’t seem to be the high energy and immediacy required for a boxing film. The fight scenes are shown from a spectator’s point of view, not as in the ring with the fighters.

I suppose it all depends on what the viewer wants from it. Meg Ryan’s performance is adequate without the sassy, brassy character one would expect. As a boxing film it is generally watchable but it fails to deliver a knockout punch.