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Against the Ropes
2004 - PG-13 - 110 Mins.
Director: Charles S. Dutton
Written By: Cheryl Edwards
Starring: Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Charles S. Dutton, Tony Shalhoub, Timothy Daly
Review by: Joe Rickey

Why did I agree to let her, now box office poison, star in my film?
Jackie Kallen has been around the world of boxing all her life. Her father was a trainer and her uncle a professional boxer, dubbed Ray-Ray Kallen. Now all grown-up and working as a secretary, she gets the chance to delve back into that world once again. She is offered a boxer’s contract for a dollar. She accepts it but finds the boxer to be a drug addict. It is her surprise when she witnesses her new purchase get into a fight with another man. She sees potential in the other man so she convinces him to be her boxer. The film follows her and his meteoric rise to the top of the boxing world in this based on a true story production.

Meg Ryan is known for her prolific appearances in wholly light and fluffy romantic comedies such as 'Sleepless in Seattle,' 'When Harry Met Sally,' and 'Kate and Leopold.' They follow a predictable formula but there is still no question that, like comfort food, people never do tire of them. Meg Ryan though must have believed that in order to maintain her career, it was necessary to branch out from her comfort zone. She did so last October with 'In the Cut,' an erotic murder mystery that bombed horribly at the box office. Now her second attempt at branching out of the romantic comedy genre, 'Against the Ropes,' hits theatres after having been delayed for a year and a half. While the box office is almost assured to be light, the film is actually better than could be expected for a long-delayed project.

Meg Ryan had a lot to prove with this film. The main thing that she had to prove was whether she could handle a role as a tough-talking personality instead of the meek and cheery persona she is usually asked to embody in her films. While Ryan does succeed at times in the role, complete with an accent, most of the time she is not entirely successful. She mostly comes across as overly phony and insincere at some crucial points during the film. There must also be mention of the very ending of the film, which rings completely false. How, then, is the film any good? Well, there are multiple reasons.

Director Charles S. Dutton, making his directorial debut and appearing as a trainer in film, gives the film the life it needs by showing great skill in choreographing the fight sequences. The fight sequences are appropriately heart pounding and simply exciting to watch. As the boxer managed by Kallen, Omar Epps gives a performance that, unlike Ryan, rings true at all times. Whether he is showing the fits of rage his street smart character is prone to or illustrating his lighter side, Epps is up to whatever the script asks of him and more. It’s truly unfortunate that his performance is likely to go unnoticed because of the imminent failure of the film as a whole.

Overall, 'Against the Ropes' is a mixed bag. On one hand it contains a terrible conclusion and a lackluster performance by Meg Ryan. On the other hand, it has some thrilling boxing sequences and a terrific performance by Omar Epps. Recommended viewing for fans of the actor or the sport in question.

Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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