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Against the Ropes

Not Worthy of Clever Title

Originally slated for an April 2003 premiere, Against the Ropes gets its long awaited (insert sarcasm here) opening this weekend after two more abandoned release dates and a host of criticism regarding the facts presented by the film. Inspired by the life of Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan), Ropes follows the career of one of the first and most famous (or perhaps notorious) female managers in boxing history. As the story goes, Kallen traded in her secretarial shoes to manage no-name street hustler Luther Shaw. In proper against-all-odds fashion both Shaw and Kallen rise through adversity; Shaw becoming a likely contender for the middleweight belt and Kallen the spokeswoman for female success in a male dominated sport (oh yeah, and the world for that matter). Along the way, Kallen is blinded by her own fame, losing sight of the sport that she fell in love with as a little girl.

The story as told by the film is admittedly a fictional portrayal of the actual events. Apparently Shaw's character is the combination of several boxers, and Kallen's talent as a promoter and manager beyond media hype is widely considered suspect. It's no wonder that last bit never found its way into the film as Kallen herself holds executive producing and co-writing credits. This painfully generic American Dream redemption story could have easily been a captivating tale if it was a true bio flick. Kallen sounds like a fascinating person regardless of her talent and success. Ropes is so obviously sugarcoated that it becomes amusingly boring (with boring being the more prevalent of the two adjectives).

For what it's worth, Meg Ryan actually gives a solid performance; she has enough power and charisma to be believable as one tough cookie. I also have a responsibility to mention her breasts. Though the film received a PG-13 rating, it may not be suitable for squeamish children over the age of 13 to be exposed to the camera and costume department's attentive treatment of Kallen's rather large bust. I do not know if this fact was also fictionalized.

Skip this one: for a much better real life boxing film go rent Raging Bull and watch DeNiro go from a hard as nails fighter to a washed up fatty over the course of 2 hours.

Stars: 1 out of 5