Against the Ropes


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Meg Ryan as Jackie Kallen
Omar Epps as Luther Shaw
Tony Shalhoub as Larocca
Timothy Daly as Gaven Ross
Charles Dutton as Felix Reynolds
Joseph Cortese as Irving Abel
Kerry Washington as Renee
Skye McCole Bartusiak as Young Jackie Kallen

Against the Ropes starts out strong but is eventually knocked out by boxing movie clichés.

This film is based on a true story.

As a young girl, Jackie Kallen grew up with a great love for boxing. However, as an adult the closest she has ever been able to come to the sport is through a dead end job as an assistant at a sporting arena. Things change when she gets in an argument with a slimy boxing promoter named Larocca. He offers her a boxer’s contract for $1. She takes him up on his offer, but is soon led to a more promising boxing rookie named Luther Shaw. Though he’s completely untrained, undisciplined, and unruly, Jackie still sees potential in him as a middleweight contender.

Jackie soon drops her job to become Shaw’s full time promoter. Despite facing the sexist world of boxing, Jackie is able to take Luther to the top and she becomes a media darling. But when all the hype threatens to turn her into what she despises most about boxing, she must try to set things right in order to make her and Luther’s dreams come true.

Against the Ropes is rated PG-13 for crude language, violence, brief sensuality and some drug material.

What Worked:
I have to start out by saying that I wasn’t interested in seeing Against the Ropes at all. A Meg Ryan boxing movie held no appeal to me whatsoever. However, after giving it a chance, the first half of the film won me over. It was funny, entertaining, and a lot better than I expected. The story of three misfits turning the world of boxing on its ear was very interesting and really engaged me. The second half of the movie was another story, but more on that later.

Omar Epps is pretty good in the role of Luther Shaw. He really beefed up for the role and definitely looks like a fighter. He shows a lot of spirit and humor with his character, something very much needed in the movie. He also shows a lot of attitude making him an intimidating presence. Charles Dutton pulls double duty in the role of retired trainer Felix Reynolds and also as director of the film. His tough, no-nonsense attitude is a nice foil to Luther. A scene in a car where Jackie, Luther, and Felix fight over radio stations is also humorous and it emphasizes the differences in the characters. Tony Shalhoub is also appropriately evil and slimy as Larocca. He is reteamed with his former Wings co-star Timothy Daly who plays sports reporter Gaven Ross. Keep an eye out for the real Jackie Kallen in a cameo as a reporter.

This movie also features one of the last scores by composing great Michael Kamen. It’s an interesting mix of orchestral score, rap, and rock / jazz. It’s hard to describe but it sets the tone of the movie well.

What Didn’t Work:
The last half of the movie really stumbles, especially towards the end. This is when Jackie turns to the Dark Side and we are then subjected to a series of clichés from every boxing movie ever made. A pick-me-up speech made by the valiant Jackie to a badly beaten Luther Shaw is also incredibly cheesy. I almost laughed out loud. However, I must add that the crowd around me was laughing and cheering during the speech, so maybe I’m the one that doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

I also didn’t care for Meg Ryan as Jackie Kallen. She speaks with an annoying, fake Ohio accent that may grate on your nerves. She also dresses rather trashily which seems to nullify any arguments of taking her seriously as a female promoter. Her falling under the sway of media hype also makes her character unlikable for a good portion of the movie. Of course all of this is based on the real life Jackie Kallen, but that doesn’t make it any more appealing to me personally.

The Bottom Line:
Against the Ropes isn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I didn’t feel it lived up to its potential either. I think it’s worth checking out at some point, but the question of whether it’s in a theater or on DVD is up to you.