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Against The Ropes

Against The Ropes takes you behind the scenes of the boxing world, where the promoters strive for power, and the boxers fight for their livelihood. Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan), who as a girl lived for the sport
as her father coached her uncle boxing in Detroit, loved every minute of it and understood everything there was to know about boxing. Unfortunately, she was always told she was a girl and couldn’t be let into the boys only club.

When the movie begins, she is a nobody taking orders from loser promoters and managers in the boxing world. Sure, she believes she understands more than they possibly could, what underling doesn't? But Jackie has the fire burning in her to want more than what she's got. When Larocca (Tony Shalhoub) pushes the wrong button and basically dares Jackie with a bet, it ignites just the opportunity she needs to go out and become the promoter/manager she always wanted to be.

Selling Jackie a boxer for a dollar makes news headlines when sports announcer Gaven Ross (Timothy Daly) breaks the dare on local television, but the boxer turns out to be a dud, and while trying to meet her one dollar star she runs into a little trouble and is then witness to a street fight involving neighborhood strong arm Luther Shaw (Omar Epps). The story unfolds as she tried to convince Luther to train with Felix Reynolds (Charles Dutton) and take on Larocca’s
champion for the title.

The movie has a mixture of drama, and a little comedy. It's not funny enough to keep a constant laugh going, and unfortunately not interesting enough to care about the characters involved. Ryan is a Hollywood sweetheart, and it is really difficult to see her play a part like this that does not fit what we all know her to be, and that is the horror of typecasting.

She tries too hard to be a nobody that wants to be a somebody, and then all too easily falls into the role of what she hated in the establishment in the first place. You see it happening, you can understand it, and it plays out well enough that Ryan’s only strength in this movie is that it drives the knife into the heart to see the sweetheart turn in the total pompous ass that she does. Her accent doesn’t do much for the convincing either, but she definitely had the wardrobe down.

Tony Shalhoub on the other hand fits into his character like a glove, the jerk character of Larocca is superbly well done, and plays into the kind of attitude Jackie must deal with to break into the industry that doesn’t want a girl on board. His comebacks are funny, and the sheer power of his performance actually works well to belittle all the other characters in this film.

Omar Epps unfortunately ends up with the likable and lovable character he probably shouldn’t be advertising. Though the movie revolves around Jackie, the person who
gets her to where she is is actually the guy fighting the fights. Luther has a good presence on screen, and is seldom out of character. The mood swings his character possesses sometimes leads to random scenes that never really blossom at any point into anything. Charles
Dutton and Timothy Daly end up being the voices of reason, and the reason for Jackie ending up doing the right thing after screwing up pretty badly in her relationships with the people who got her where she was.

The first segment of the film did work hard to establish why these relationships formed, but somewhere in the script it called for the relationships to die and then rekindle fairly quickly, and for people in the boxing industry, that is a harsh reality. How we got this woman to fight so hard for her share in the glory of boxing is explained and well done, and to the writers' credit the reasons why Jackie’s relationships break down is harsh and understandable. It’s just hard to accept from a cute actress like Meg Ryan, as this film should not be taken as a chick flick, nor a movie for guys who like movies.

What was nice was the depth that all characters had, but the randomness of some story points leaves one focusing on how power can corrupt the best of people, and the harsh reality of the possibility of getting shafted is never impossible no matter how honorable one tries to be. But the final act gives minimal satisfaction in ending the story regarding the tragedy of it all, but not to a degree that makes this flick pack a decent punch. The journey was fun, and insightful, but with a padded glove that allows this fight to drag out just enough rounds only to end up suddenly losing interest.


Mish'al Samman

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