Against the Ropes

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language
Starring: Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub
Directed By: Charles S. Dutton

Final Grade:

Sometimes, a film can survive despite touting a character that doesn’t deserve our sympathy. But when the film tries to tell us that a woman who cares only about her self-image and whom we gradually grow to hate for eighty percent of the film deserves our praise is too much for me to accept.

Almost ironically, that woman is played by Meg Ryan, who’s built a career off of her looks and her spunky little charm. She plays Jackie Kallen, a woman so driven toward success that she doesn’t bother to care about anything but her own appearance and approval. Like a train wreck, her story follows a horrible train of events.

Firstly, we’re bombarded with twenty minutes of every possible analogy of feminism. Yes, they treat women like gum on their shoes, and the only way to get ahead is to do it yourself, and everything else. We get it. Once we get past that stage, Kallen hits the “growing and working to become the woman she’s been stopped from being stage.” This is where the film really fails.

In this time period, we obviously notice that Kallen is simply a woman trying to prove herself. This would work, if the story wasn’t about her helping a young boxer (Omar Epps) succeed. But for the next hour, we see her mugging for cameras, pushing herself beside her fighter, and helping him, mostly so he can help her. The film builds to the realization that she’s too busy with herself, but I realized this about an hour before the film decided to reveal it.

The story should focus more on Epps’ character, the one who’s actually fighting and growing. Granted, that’s been done before and better by films like Rocky, but that doesn’t mean his character should be entirely undeveloped. Epps is a solid actor, who seems to be making a career out of sports movies (Major League II, The Program, Love & Basketball, and now this), and deserves more in what was supposed to be a breakout role. The film, which is a first time directing effort for actor Charles S. Dutton (who also plays Epps’ underdeveloped trainer), was supposed to be a lot of things that it failed to become, as evidenced by the fact that it sat on the shelf for over a year collecting dust. But the fault is not Dutton’s, nor Epps’, nor even the annoying Ryan. The fault is in the script, which seems to think it’s far more important than it really is.

Feminism’s been done, been done about 80 years ago, and been done in many films. Against the Ropes, while trying to prove something, ends up a rehash of all that’s been said before. It’s not going to inspire many, and the ignoramuses that are feminists aren’t going to see it and be moved. Against the Ropes, in the end, is nothing more than a poor attempt at a good cause, a film that wastes the talents of those involved on a lousy script that’s full of more preaching than storytelling.

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