Against the Ropes Movie Review
For the third time in a row, I have sat down to watch a movie that was given scathing reviews by critics only to find that it is in fact a mildly entertaining piece of work. Against the Ropes, starring Meg Ryan, Omar Epps and Charles Dutton and Tony Shalhoub, is a decent sports drama about true-life boxing manager Jackie Kallen - of course, what hurts the film is that it is all fiction.
Ryan stars as Kallen, a woman who has grown up around boxing. Continuously put down for being a woman in a male-dominated industry, she finds a diamond in the rough by the name of Luther Shaw (Epps), a young man who needs a lot of work and some temper control, but who has the qualities to become the next middleweight champ. Along with her trainer Felix (Dutton), Kallen puts Shaw in the spotlight, only to find everything crumble away as fame gets the better of both of them.
Unfortunately, it is very unclear just how much of this movie is factual, since Luther Shaw, the main boxer, doesn't exist in real life. Why this movie was fictionalized so much is beyond me, when just as good of a story could have materialized out of what really happened. Throughout the film, I was surprisingly entertained, but could never get over the fact that this was a fictionalized account of a real story. What's the point?
I guess the point is that despite its historically inaccurate account, Against the Ropes is actually a pretty decent movie. I really had very little interest to see this from the beginning, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it has a good deal of fighting and a fast pace. It never really excels to the next level of the genre, as it fails to go in deeply on any of the characters. Worse off, I didn't even like the character of Jackie Kallan.
In her second film away from romantic comedies (her next three upcoming movies are either dramas or thrillers), Meg Ryan continues to prove why we liked her so much as the cutesy girl in all those lighthearted films. Her previous film, In the Cut, was just dreadfully awful, and while Against the Ropes is much better, she still didn't sell me on her character. Okay, so her accent might have changed to fit the role (not the most flattering of accents, I must add), but her character never gets the chance to really expand on screen, and the end result is a drab, one-dimensional person that isn't very entertaining to watch. I know Ryan has the capability to do drama, but she needs to start picking roles that compliment her. Jackie Kallan is not one of those. By the way, those lips have to go.
Epps, on the other hand, is much better, and if I were a studio executive, I would have just done away with the Jackie Kallan story altogether and focused around this guy, even if he isn't a real person. Epps is almost always enjoyable as an energetic and vibrant young man, and he explodes on screen in every scene. Complimented by Dutton, who is always consistent, Epps is the real star of the show.
As far as the boxing goes, Against the Ropes gets pretty intense. There are lots of fighting scenes, but the one that takes the cake is the final one, which, of course, is the most dramatic. The sequence is long, brutal and fun to watch - and I don't like boxing. The only thing that irked me is that Kallan actually has an effect on the final bout; she appears out of nowhere to give some advice to her struggling boxer. Did his coach not think of her advice? Are her words really that inspirational? It all seemed a bit cheesy to me, and then the movie goes on to do one of those pathetically bad clapping scenes. Scoff!
Against the Ropes has a lot of good stuff going for it that seems to have been overlooked. If you're into boxing or any kind of sport drama, this may be worth checking out. It doesn't go anywhere new, but since when do sports movies do that?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.