Corporate Line: The daughter of a trainer, Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan) grew up skipping rope in a downtown Detroit gym alongside her uncle, a fighter himself. Now, at 36, Jackie’s ready to carry on the family tradition. Trying to make her mark in the boxing world, Jackie spends a lot of her free time working the room at D’Agostino’s, a pugs and thugs hangout known for its stiff drinks and bloody steaks. After drinks with Cleveland’s local hotshot TV sportscaster, Gavin Reese (Tim Daly), Jackie ends up in a verbal sparring match with the Midwest’s boxing kingpin, Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub). Just to belittle her, he sells her the contract of one of his fighters for a dollar… and that’s just about what Devon Greene (Tory Kittles) is worth. It turns out Devon’s more interested in smoking crack than boxing. But Jackie’s dollar ends up being well spent anyway. When she goes to Devon’s apartment to introduce herself as his new manager, she arrives just as his drug dealer’s enforcer, Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), is beating him up. Instantly, she recognizes that it is Luther, not Devon, who has the potential to be her champion. Bailing Luther out of jail, Jackie convinces him to pursue boxing and to let her be his manager. Then, with the help of Felix Reynolds (Charles S. Dutton), a veteran trainer whom she coaxes out of retirement, Jackie turns Luther from a jail-bound punk into a streamlined prizefighter… and at the same time, turns herself into one of the most successful female managers in boxing history.
The Good: Meg Ryan won’t win an award for her role as Jackie Kallen but she’ll turn a few heads either with her sexy outfits or tough-as-nails personality. Her sexy outfits and sassy style allows Ryan to be come transformed into a take-no-prisoners character who has the ability to go from a hardass to a woman who can go down gracefully.
Ryan’s interactions with Omar Epps are key to making Against The Ropes work. It starts out as a boxing film and turns into a story about love yet not the kind of love we are used to; this is plutonic. Epps and Ryan have chemistry and it’s a motherly affection that it starts out awkward and grows into something fantastic.
The fact that Kallen isn’t the film’s great savior this feels closer to reality. Against The Ropes accomplishes more than it would if Kallen was portrayed as a flawless human being. This isn’t Hollywood-this is real life and we can all learn a lesson or two; that doesn’t happen often in film.
The Bad: For the guys: this isn’t a boxing film. Don’t go in hoping to see Rocky 6. There is boxing but it lacks real boxing brutality that is outdone by the relationships. Women will love it, guys will if they don’t expect a sports film. Is that entirely bad? It’s up for discussion.
Frankly: It’s entertaining. Is that bad?
+ Charlie Craine