Meg Ryan clearly is trying to reposition herself in the eyes of
     Hollywood. Having turned 40, she is at a crossroads. No longer the sweet
     young ingénue who could anchor a romantic comedy, the actress tried
     to prove her chops by branching out into more serious roles. I've long
     felt that Ryan wasn't much of a dramatic actress. Even from her early
     days as Betsy on the daytime drama
"As the World Turns," she lacked
     something. (Her replacement, Lindsay Frost, on the other hand should
     have had a successful career in films, but because of the vagaries of the
     business, she has only done sporadic work in motion pictures and TV.)
     Ryan went on to become one of "America's sweethearts" on the basis of
     her work in
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY ...  and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
     but stumbled in the less than stellar success of KATE & LEOPOLD (which
     served more as a vehicle for co-star Hugh Jackman).
IN THE CUT
     offered her a chance to prove her mettle, but Ryan was somewhat at sea
     trying to act sexy, despite a nude scene, in what was basically a typical
     woman-in-peril film that has been handled better on the small screen.
     With
AGAINST THE ROPES (filmed before the Jane Campion movie, but
     shelved for more than a year which is never a good sign), Ryan once
     again tried to prove she has the chops to handle dramatic roles, and
     sadly comes up short.

             AGAINST THE ROPES purports to be the story of the rise of
     America's first female fight promoter, Jackie Kallen. Although the
     real-life Kallen is a colorful figure (see the DVD for a featurette on her),
     screenwriter Cheryl Edwards opted to fictionalize her story for the
     big screen. Instead of a potentially fascinating character study, we
     get a standard run-of-the-mill tale of a woman who overcomes the
     opposition of men and achieves success. The film feels like a
     throwback to movies from the mid- to late 1970s when feminist
     heroines were all the rage for the top actresses of the day. (Back then,
     Jill Clayburgh probably would have been cast as Kallen.)

             Although director Charles S. Dutton tries to inject some spark,
     the script defeats all involved. Cliché after cliché is trotted out to
     the point where the audience can easily predict what will come next.
     Poor Meg Ryan tries hard, but someone suggested she use an indistinct
     accent and dress in what appears to be Julia Roberts' leftover wardrobe
     from
ERIN BROCKOVICH.

             Omar Epps plays the neighborhood tough guy that Kallen turns
     into a champion. Tim Daly has the thankless role of a journalist who
     may or may not have romantic feelings for Kallen. Dutton takes the
     part of Burgess Meredith -- I mean,the grizzled old trainer who comes
     out of retirement to help turn Epps into a topnotch fighter. Even the
     estimable Kerry Washington is wasted in the role of a Kallen co-worker.
 
             If you're really in the mood for a boxing movie, rent
RAGING BULL
     or the 1999 documentary ON THE ROPES or even ROCKY. If you want
     feminist drama, try
JULIA or AN UNMARRIED WOMAN. By all means,
     skip
AGAINST THE ROPES.


                        
Rating:                    D
                        
MPAA Rating:           PG-13 for crude language, violence,
                                                             brief sensuality and some drug            
                                                              material
                        
Running time:           111 mins.



                           Viewed at the Loews E-Walk Theater




                            
Against the Ropes
© 2005-2008 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.