ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  charles dutton

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  80 minutes

RELEASED  -  20 february 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  against the ropes

against the ropes - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from against the ropes at

buy the dvd from against the ropes at

a fictional story inspired by north america's most famous female boxing promoter, jackie kallen.

sandra bullock was once in talks to play jackie kallan.


picture from against the ropes

picture from against the ropes

picture from against the ropes

picture from against the ropes


one out of four possible stars

In her continuing efforts to prove herself in the dramatic arena, star Meg Ryan has chosen a fascinating story which has suffered greatly in its translation to the screen. Based loosely on the actual life of Jackie Kallen, the first woman ever to invade the arena of boxing representation, the film treads a fine line between the exciting and the peculiar. Although the story itself has the potential to be a page-turner and an audience pleaser (as David versus Goliath stories usually do), the film is hampered by the strange casting of Meg Ryan in the lead role.

She has shined again and again in her roles in romantic comedies, but her ventures into drama have seen varied success. She does indeed possess the ability to carry a serious role (2000's Proof of Life is a good example), but her performance in Against the Ropes is not as genuine as it should be. The story allows her character to fall from and back into the good graces of the audience as she is seduced by the lure of the spotlight, and that character arc is an interesting one. But the film focuses too heavily on this one aspect in the second half of the film, causing it to drag.

Which is highly ironic and disappointing given the film's tidy eighty minute running time. Although the boxing sequences (if one is inclined to enjoy acts of pugilism) are expertly choreographed, a variety of factors make it difficult to enjoy this film to it's conclusion, the first being a set of wholly unrealistic dialogue presented to the audience in one of the first scenes. A conversation between Meg Ryan's character and her co-worker, "Renee," played by Kerry Washington, is filled with cheesy similes and metaphors which are entirely too rehearsed.

As Renee and Jackie converse, they advance through an entire of conversation about breaking the thick glass ceiling regarding the involvement of women as boxing managers. While the fact that the real life Jackie Kallen was the first women ever to manage a boxer toward a championship belt, the story itself wears thin in an hour and a half of screen time. Perhaps it's the construction of the story, perhaps it's the casting of Meg Ryan in the lead role. Or perhaps the screenwriters should have stayed closer to the actual events that inspired the film.

Jackie Kallen had a husband and kids when she started her career in boxing. This element might have fattened the story up, something which the film desperately needs as each minute ticks by. While the film's message is an easy one to appreciate, the meat of the film - the plot and its events - is rather thin. Which is confusing considering Jackie's story is so unique. There's never been a woman in the boxing industry who's had as much professional success and pull as she's had, yet this film drags the interest level down to zero after about sixty minutes.

Most of the blame can be laid to rest on the people who adapted Kallen's story. They focused on specific elements, such as Kallen's weakness for the spotlight (it's unknown whether this character flaw was an actual flaw or whether it was created by the screenwriter), which seemed to sensationalize her story rather than make it gritty and "real." Strangely, it is the supporting cast that can lay claim to the most realistic characterizations. Aside from the fact that Ryan is the only actor in the film who takes on a peculiar Mid-west accent, the supporting characters are all so much more natural.

Charles Dutton, who also directed the film, is especially effective as "Felix Reynolds," a veteran boxing coach brought out of retirement by Kallen when she asks for his help with her boxer, "Luther," played by Omar Epps in as equally a strong role. Tony Shalhoub is surprising in his role as a tough-as-nails rival promoter, making it clear he can handle a role outside of his usual quirky comedic role choices. In other areas, the technical elements of the film, most impressively the cinematography, are competently done and support the film well.

Against the Ropes benefits from the natural interest viewers might have about the interesting subject and unique story, but fails in its ability to keep the audience's attention much beyond the first act. Although the final boxing sequence is more than rousing, it takes much more than a well put-together conclusion to make film. Although Meg Ryan has some interesting moments in her role as Jackie, she is the main out-of-place element in the entire film and since her role is the most important, the entire film suffers for it. Add in pages of poorly written dialogue and not even the strong supporting cast can overcome that failing.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - 2005 - ninth symphony films - photographs paramount pictures 2004
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