Ryan refocuses, takes on challenge in Against the Ropes

While boxing may be a man’s world, Jackie Kallen is not just living in it. As an aspiring boxing promoter she adds a woman’s touch to the testosterone-dominated sport. In Against The Ropes, Meg Ryan reinvents herself to portray Jackie, the first woman to manage and promote three championship middleweight boxers in over six different divisions. Ryan tackles a character unlike any she has recently taken on, producing a distinct and divergent performance long overdue.

The boxing drama co-stars Omar Epps as Luther Shaw, a talented attitude-infested know-it-all who rises to the top of the boxing circuit as a result of Jackie’s determination and inspiration. Charles S. Dutton does an extraordinary job of directing the film and adds a thick layer of credibility to the project by co-starring as Luther Shaw’s veteran ring trainer Felix Reynolds.

Born into a boxing family, Jackie spent her childhood in a downtown Detroit gym, watching and learning the art of boxing from her uncle, a professional boxer.

The thirty-six year old Jackie is now readier than ever to carry on the family tradition, trying to make her mark in the male-dominated boxing world.

After drinks with Cleveland’s respected local TV sportscaster Gavin Reese (Tim Daly), Jackie finds herself in a vocal boxing match with fabled boxing promoter, Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub).

As an insult, Sam sells Jackie the contract of Devon Greene (Tory Kittles), one of his fighters, for one dollar. When Jackie goes to Devon’s apartment to introduce herself as his new manager, she finds unexpected boxing talent Luther Shaw (Epps). Combined with the aid of Felix Reynolds (Dutton), an expert trainer whom she convinces out of retirement, Jackie transforms Luther from a trouble-making hoodlum into the middleweight boxing champion of the world: She transforms’ herself as well and becomes the most successful female manager in the history of the sport.

The acting in the film is up to par. Epps delivers a realistic and believable portrayal of a young, street-punk-boxer, and the chemistry between Dutton and Epps is genuine.

Most interesting, however, is Ryan’s northern Michigan accent, which she executes flawlessly. It is refreshing to see Ryan attempt a more demanding role, which requires a little more preparation and ability than her previous roles.

The screenplay is based on a true story and was written with the consciousness of the mainstream audience in mind.

This explains why the movie is predictable and routine. The film does manage to offer a muscular plot with first-rate character development, along with plenty of fast paced boxing action scenes to keep one from falling asleep.

The boxing scenes are action-packed and believable, which is rare for editors and directors to accomplish even for milestone films such as the Rocky series.

Although Against the Ropes is enjoyable, there is nothing innovative that separates this film from every other feel-good drama.

However, the producers of the film were successful in meeting one of their objectives — a sexier, wittier and more provocative Ryan.

Against the Ropes may be banal but manages to offer a little more than just clever boxing scenes.

It takes the audience on a journey as they experience first hand the trials and tribulations of a female manager in a male dominated boxing world.

Contact Jason Martinez at oraclemovies@yahoo.com