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Against the Ropes  (2004)


Starring: Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Daly

Director: Charles S. Dutton

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 13, 2004
Review posted: July 18, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dylan Grant




Jackie Kallen (Ryan) isn’t fighting for glory. She’s fighting for respect. To help “Lethal” Luther Shaw (Epps) rise to the rank of number one contender, Jackie coaxes veteran trainer Felix Reynolds (Charles S. Dutton) out of retirement. Before they can realize their dream of a championship bout, they must first learn what it takes to stand in each other’s corner.




The sassy, spunk woman teams up with an unheard of underdog to make it in a man’s world. The two of them overcome their initial differences and find surprising success, only to have that success drive a wedge between them. They have to overcome their differences and remember what got them where they are in order to win in the end. Sound familiar?


I wanted to like this film. Boxing has always made for great cinema, from Body and Soul (1947) to Rocky to Martin Scorsese’s masterful Raging Bull and countless films in between. Unfortunately, Against the Ropes just does not fit in. The film never moves beyond the familiar, mired in cliché, the end a foregone conclusion well before the opening credits stop rolling.


If I am making Against the Ropes sound like a bad movie, it really is not. Meg Ryan is her usually affable self, affecting a midwestern twang and creating a flawed but likeable character. Omar Epps does well as the underdog Shaw. Epps did all of his own fight scenes, and he makes them very believable. Charles S. Dutton, as the seen-it-all trainer, is the heart and soul of the film, giving what is probably the best performance. Dutton is the standout in a cast that is competent all around; playing a character that sees the painful trajectory of the fight game coming long before anyone else.


The problem with this film is simply that there are no surprises. This kind of story has been done to death, and it seems to come around once or twice every year.  Even the fight scenes, while well done, are nothing spectacular. The final, championship bout, the climax of the film, is the most exciting bout in the movie, but it is over so fast that the drama is quickly drained from the scene. There is a relationship between Luther and Jackie’s friend that drives a rift between boxer and manager, but it is not explored in depth, much of it left for us to infer. In the end, when “Lethal” Luther wins the big bout, their differences are quickly forgotten.


While not a bad film, Against the Ropes is the kind of thing we have seen before and will see again.




This film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is sharp, and all the color levels have translated well.




Against the Ropes presents a few different audio options. There is an English track in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, an English track in Dolby Surround, and a track in French Dolby Surround. The presentation is crisp and well balanced. The crowd and boxing scenes demonstrate the superb quality of this presentation.




A Ringside Seat: A behind-the-scenes look at how the film came to be and how the film relates to the life that inspired it.


Queen of the Ring: A short featurette about the real life woman behind the movie that shows us how she went from journalism to boxing manager.


We also have the Original Theatrical Trailer. The features are decent, about what we might expect.




Against the Ropes is an engaging film, but it never moves out of the cliché, and the special features have a generic feel to them. Some might enjoy this once, but few will want to own it.




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