Against the RopesThursday 13 May 2004
Directed by Charles S Dutton, starring Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Charles S Dutton, Tim Daly, Tony Shalhoub and Joe Cortese.
While 'The Calcium Kid' was an unlikely combination of boxing and Orlando Bloom, 'Against the Ropes', this week's boxing film, is an even odder mixture. According to a title card, 'Against the Ropes' was "inspired by" Jackie Kallen, one of the first women to succeed in the macho world of professional boxing. But casting the ever-fluffy (even when she tries very hard not to be) Meg Ryan in a story about boxing is just asking for the wrong sort of trouble.
Ryan plays Kallen as a mouthy go-getter with a weakness for leopard prints, outfits that would make a hooker blush and a soft-focus camera lens. It's cliché-tastic - she finds a raw but talented boxer (Epps) from the wrong side of town, drags a grumpy old trainer out of retirement (Dutton, whose debut directing project this unfortunately is), gets consumed by her own importance, loses a boxer and learns a lesson.
It's 'Erin Brockovich' meets 'Rocky' en route to 'Jerry Maguire' - but without any sort of charm or, alternatively, grit. Ryan as Kallen is more likely to cry than negotiate, and when one of her cartoonish antagonists calls her a "Barbie doll with glass balls", you'll probably find yourself nodding in agreement rather than getting outraged for her character.
It does top 'The Calcium Kid' by actually managing to get in the ring but director Charles S Dutton - who, incidentally, is the actor most worth watching - proves himself unable to direct any actual boxing. He's not assisted by a turgid script from Cheryl Edwards, who should have gone less for the "inspired by" route and more towards a straightforward adaptation of Kallen's autobiography.
With too much boxing for the women and too much Meg for the men, 'Against the Ropes' will struggle to find an audience.