A review of “Against the Ropes” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

 

 

Meg Ryan thinks outside the box for a second consecutive project with a gritty portrayal of blue-collar babe and boxing impresario Jackie Kallen.

Jackie is hell in high heels; defying the odds in a male-dominated world by plucking an unknown brawler (Omar Epps as Luther Shaw) off the streets and re-making him into a prizefighting champ.  Along the way she butts heads, and philosophies, with scumbag boxing kingpin Sam LaRocca (a delectably slimy Tony Shaloub), who’s determined to see her fail.

At Jackie’s insistent pleading, veteran trainer Felix Reynolds (Charles S. Dutton) steps in to whip her rags-to-riches fighter into shape, both mentally and physically.  A hiccup of major proportions ensues when Jackie begins to take her own press too seriously, forgetting those who knew her when and selling out for the bright lights and the big city.

Cheesy, manipulative, and rank with a TV movie-of-the-week stench, Ropes just manages to trace its storyline with the sin of guilty pleasure.  Skimpy scripting and skimpier skirts lend an amusingly tawdry aura, with low-rent Cleveland standing in as an irresistibly sleazy backdrop.

Tim Daly -- typically box-office poison -- makes a decent impression as loyal friend and voice of reason, while Ryan genially suffers the slings and barbs of clawing her way through the boy’s club to become the most successful female manager in the history of the sport.

 

I can’t get used to the sight of cinema-sweetheart Ryan in cleavage and Frederick’s of Hollywood, but she struts her stuff Erin Brockovich-style; chock-a-block with moxie and the mettle of a woman who wants more.