Against the Ropes


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"Against the Ropes is a drama (not a comedy) that scores a split decision." 



Against the Ropes
The Masked Reviewer

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 that's okay!

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.  How odd.

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 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 stick. 

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 were planes. 

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 seemed to be some kind of midwestern accent.  Between the accent and the 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 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 end. 

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.'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 been.

Against the Ropes is a drama (not a comedy) that scores a split decision. 


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 frenzy.

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.


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