A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Meg Ryan plays Jackie Kallen, a passionate boxing fan who stays in her job as assistant to the guy who runs the sports arena even though she can do better. But no one believes in her and she barely believes in herself. When bigtime local promoter Larocca (Tony Shaloub) tries to embarrass her by offering to sell her a fighter's contract for a dollar, she accepts. It turns out she overpaid, but she spots Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), a more promising prospect. She persuades him to let her manage him and brings on retired trainer Felix Reynolds (played by Charles S. Dutton, who also directed). Kallen and Shaw (a composite character based on several of Kallen's fighters, including James "Lights Out" Toney) have to learn to trust each other. While Shaw takes on other boxers, Kallen takes on the boxing establishment. They both find out that achieving success is not as challenging as handling it. The trust they developed begins to unravel when Kallen, promoting Shaw, herself, or both of them, gets more attention than Shaw does. Having been thought unimportant for so long by everyone around her, she gets so mesmerized by the recognition that she breaks an important promise, and Shaw leaves her for Larocca, just before a career-defining fight.
Is it any good?
Two tips for movie-makers out there -- first, if you make a movie about a real-life character, especially a feisty babe who can go toe-to-toe with the big boys, don't let her produce the movie. And second, It takes more than a big mouth and skimpy clothes to turn an America's sweetheart girl-next-door type into Erin Brockovich. Ignore these points and you get AGAINST THE ROPES, turning a story about boxing's first major female promoter into an uninspired and uninspiring tale that feels like it comes out of the Lifetime made-for-TV-movie assembly line.
What is really disappointing is that none of this is half as interesting as the real life of Jackie Kallen, who was a journalist for Rolling Stone who became a publicist for a boxer after interviewing him for a feature story. She was a minivan-driving mother of two children who brought her inner city boxers out to her suburban home to live with her. She has detailed the ups and downs of her life in a book, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot: A Fight Plan for Dealing With All of Life's Hard Knocks". Another disappointment is Ryan's performance, which is all on the outside and is more distracting than revealing. She pitches her voice low and tahks about bahkzing. She wears teensy tight outfits and animal prints. And she has done something unwise to her lips. Ryan is a good actress who knows how to look tough and vulnerable at the same time, but the script and director Dutton try to do too many things at once with Kallen, and so it does not give her a real character to give to us.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: February 20, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: July 13, 2004
- Cast: Charles S. Dutton, Meg Ryan, Omar Epps
- Director: Charles S. Dutton
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude language, violence, brief sensuality and some drug material.
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