Not since the 1979 classic film
The Main Event
(starring Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neal (no relation to
Shaquille O'Neal)) has a boxing flick about a female manager been seen
in theaters. With the latest Meg Ryan/Omar Epps vehicle, behold --
the second coming of boxing flicks about a female manager has arrived!
Only this time, it's a true story!
Actually, they say it's a
true story, but they go on to say that it isn't really all that
true...the manager that Meg Ryan plays is a real person (the most
successful female boxing manager of all time), but most of the other
characters are amalgams based on more-or-less real people. But
There is something that needs to be pointed out about this film.
The trailers make it appear to be a comedy. It is not a comedy.
Much unlike The Main Event (or, perhaps, exactly like it)
Against the isn't funny at all. The difference is that
Against the Ropes doesn't try to be funny. The trailer
takes every funny line out of context and puts some upbeat comedy-like
music to it, but it's a drama. In fact, a couple of scenes in the
trailer are taken out of context completely and give the impression that
they're funny scenes, when they're actually done seriously in the film.
Part of the problem, undoubtedly, is Meg Ryan. She has been
typecast in stone as the bubbly and chipper love interest in almost
every romantic comedy ever made. Her delivery tends to be either
cutesy-wutesy or pouting with a trembling bottom lip and tear-filled
eyes. There isn't much between. That works well in the
romantic comedies, but here it's sometimes hard to take her seriously.
Everything she does seems so "light" that when she is playing it
straight, you still might think she's just kidding.
That's not to say that Against the Ropes is super-duper
drama...it ain't exactly Hamlet (unless you're talking about the
Mel Gibson version, in which case an argument could be made that it
is exactly Hamlet).
Omar Epps plays the boxer, and he does a fine job. The problem
is that his boxer (a tough thug from the projects) seems to wobble back
and forth between being hardcore tough guy and sweet and smiley.
We get that Meg Ryan's character is good to him and is making him a
better person, but it seems to happen instantaneously, popping back and
forth like Jeckyll and Hyde on pogo sticks. Or, both on one pogo
Tony Shalhoub plays a bad guy. He's over the top. He's
mean. He's a chauvinist. He's a chauvinist pig. He's
re-united with his "Wings" co-star, Tim Daly. Remember "Wings"?
There must be someone out there who remembers "Wings". It's the
"Everybody Loves Raymond" of the 80's. Only different. There
Also starring in the film is its director, Charles S. Dutton (who you
may remember as TV's "Roc" or that guy from Alien 3). He
plays the trainer. Have you ever noticed that the role of "boxing
trainer" in every movie is very similar? They're all kind of
gruff, they're very demanding, pushy, and kind of touchy. What's
with that stereotype? Aren't there any kinder, gentler boxing
trainers? Are they all bad guys? The Masked Reviewer
wants to know. Where's the Society Against the Defamation of
Boxing Trainers? Did they disband because they didn't
have a catchy acronym?
There's some other guy in the film, too...he plays a boxing promoter
in Buffalo. He has a big, strange looking purple blotch on his
forehead. It looks like someone branded him with an iron.
It's huge. It's purple. The Masked Reviewer kept waiting for
Meg Ryan to lean over to him and say "Hey, what happened to your
forehead?" It's very noticeable, but it doesn't come up in the
movie. Are we to believe that no one on the set noticed?
What, did they run out of make-up? The Masked Reviewer
kept wanting to loan the guy a baseball cap to pull down over that mark.
Is it a scar? A burn? A birth mark? The plague?
That was the most intriguing thing about the film.
Meg Ryan didn't need much make-up. That's because she seems to
have undergone some fairly significant plastic surgery. Her eyes
don't look right. They look fine, but they don't look like her
eyes. She used to have big round eyes, now they're different.
It's hard to figure out what else she's had done, but it becomes a bit
distracting since it seems to be her voice coming out of a new face.
She also adopted a weird accent...it seemed to be some kind of
midwestern accent. Between the accent and the facelift...one can't
help but wonder if that really was Meg Ryan.
Here's the strangest thing about the movie: in a lot of sports films
(and boxing movies in particular), the big match at the end is the
climactic moment. It's during this match (or fight) that in a good
film, the crowd will begin to cheer -- sometimes the audience will
applaud and scream. If it's done right, it will really bring you
into it and you'll root for the good guy. That happened at the
screening of Against the Ropes. The strange thing was...it
was only the women in the audience who were cheering. And,
most of them were. It was almost as if every man in the theater
had left, or was watching another movie. It's not that the men
wanted the good guy to lose...I think it's that the men had seen it all
before (most memorably in Rocky. And Rocky II.
And Rocky III, IV, and V.)
During that last fight, about 30 percent of the ladies in the crowd
were "wooping" and clapping and stomping their feet. The director
seems to have found a way to tap into the primordial cheering mechanism
in women that is often overlooked. Perhaps it's because of the
strong pro-chick message that Meg Ryan exudes in the movie. She's
cute, she's smart, and she's tough. She has to deal with a lot of
gross sexism (often in the form of people asking her to get them
coffee...OOH!) Women in the audience couldn't help themselves from
blurting out "You go girl!" and "He did not just say that!" and
"Oh no you didn't!" during the chauvinism Meg Ryan's character
endured on screen. There was an awful lot of tongue clacking, too.
And these weren't just young women, either! Several blue-haired
knitting-types were pumping their fists and chanting "hooray!" at the
Also, there was an old guy eating a lollipop in the seat next to the
Masked Reviewer. No human being has ever made so much noise
sucking on a lollipop. If you're in a theater, you're not alone.
Remember that. Right now, try to make the loudest, most disgusting
slurping noise you possibly can. He sounded like a $10 whore
trying to suck start a city bus. The Masked Reviewer doubts he was
making some kind of symbolic comment on the quality of Meg Ryan's
performance. That old guy, without a doubt, certainly sucked.
The Masked Reviewer won't spoil any of the surprises in the film for
you, but there is a cameo appearance by a certain famous ring announcer
with a certain well-known catch phrase.
That's about it. It seems to play much better with women,
especially women who like boxing and who find Omar Epps attractive.
Women who enjoy films about strong women overcoming chauvinistic men
will also find something to like. Men...it's fine. They do
avoid becoming too predictable in the plot...there are a couple of
unexpected twists, which makes it more interesting than it might have
Against the Ropes is a drama (not a comedy) that scores a
Expectation from the Title: No one would have suspected that
the whole town would unite in its hatred for the new folks in town: Mr.
and Mrs. Ropes.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
The New Meg Ryan is cute, too.
The Pros: The plot isn't as predictable as you might predict.
Acting generally fine. Seems to get some females worked into a
The Cons: Nothing great, not very interesting. The
impact of "based on a true story" seems to get washed away in a lot of
fictionalization. Meg Ryan's character has some depth.