Considering how this pedestrian tale of triumphing against the odds uses race and gender as superficial window dressing, it’s little surprise that, during the climactic title fight between his Hispanic champ and the African-American contender, Against the Ropes’ villainous mafioso boxing promoter Sam Larocca (Tony Shalhoub) screams out, “Send him back to the ghetto!” Oh, the subtlety! Directed by Charles S. Dutton, this lackluster melodrama traces the rise of Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan), a Cleveland secretary whose sexy outfits and confrontational bluntness helped her become boxing’s most successful female manager. The film, however, seems derived less from real life than from the “Moviemaking for Dummies” handbook. Born and raised on boxing, Jackie finds herself mired in a dead-end job getting coffee for a crooked boxing bigwig until, at the behest of her supportive co-worker, she decides to fight back and take on the male power structure dominating her beloved sport. With the help of talented but rough-around-the-edges street fighter Luther Shaw (Omar Epps), wise trainer Felix Reynolds (Dutton), and a lot of cleavage-baring tops and revealing mini skirts, Jackie becomes an overnight sensation with the media and, thus, a thorn in the side of the nasty Larocca. Of course, given her unbearably weird Cleveland accent—which turns “My name is Jackie” into something like “Muy naime ish Jaykie”—and her embarrassing penchant for saying things such as “He’s not good. He’s da bomb,” one can’t blame Larocca for not wanting to be within earshot of the cloyingly feisty Jackie. In Cheryl Edwards’s script, corny clichés and metaphors square off in a 12-round battle of linguistic idiocy, and by the time Jackie advises a young female admirer to “Run with the big dogs. Don’t just sit on the porch,” your brain will be thoroughly TKO’d. Jackie’s battle against sexual discrimination is cursorily linked to Luther’s successful escape from the ‘hood, but the filmmakers only care about prejudice as a means of giving their “Little Engine That Could” storyline some, ahem, color. While Dutton’s fight scenes are directed with reasonable panache, the rest of the film’s visuals are so blandly static that one can imagine the ease with which Against the Ropes will be pan-and-scanned for television. Send it straight to Lifetime!
- Paramount Pictures
- 100 min
- Charles S. Dutton
- Cheryl Edwards
- Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub, Timothy Daly, Charles Dutton, Kerry Washington, Joseph Cortese
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