Making the Grades
Meg Ryan has packed away the cutesy charm of her younger years in favor of a more dramatic character in Against the Ropes. With her characteristically disheveled hair, she dons the role of Jackie Kallen, one of the most successful female boxing managers in the world, who's about to knock down the doors of this boys-only bastion.
Growing up at the gym, Jackie listened and learned from her father as he coached her Uncle Ray (Sean Bell) and other aspiring boxers. Now, years later she plays nursemaid to a bigoted boss in exchange for free ringside tickets. Following one of these events, she is pushed to prove her abilities as a contract owner after she gets into a verbal sparring match of her own with the losing boxer's hotheaded manager (Tony Shalhoub).
Luckily for her, she meets a drug dealer in a rundown neighborhood of the city. After watching him kick down a door and beat up an owing customer, she is convinced he is a potential pugilist for her stable. Relying on the training abilities of Felix Reynolds (Charles Dutton) to get the thug in fighting form, she takes on the task of promoting the unproven Luther Shaw (Omar Epps) to matchmakers across the region.
But spotting untapped talent proves to be less of a challenge for Jackie than dealing with the perks of success. Caught up in the fever of media hype, it isn't long before her own aspirations for fame put a strain on her relationships with her boxer, trainer and personal friend (Kerry Washington). Jackie feels the full impact of seeking celebrity-status in a male dominated sport when she reneges on a promise to a local sportscaster (Timothy Daly).
Inspired by the true events in the life of a journalist-turned-boxing mogul, this story relies heavily on creative license to bring Jackie's character to the screen. Unfortunately, the movie version of this headstrong, ambitious woman fails to ignite either enthusiasm for the sport of boxing or the part she played in it. Ryan's rendition is neither warm enough to endear her nor tough enough to engender respect. Additionally, the script is pummeled with profanities and terms of Deity along with explicit sexual comments and innuendo. Scantily clad women shown in the arena and a striptease bar as well as graphic bloody bouts in the ring and other sports related violence round out the content concerns parents may have with this film.
In the end, even a tidy and tender moment of remorseful regret can't keep Against the Ropes from being out for the count.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Against the Ropes (2004).
What do you think motivated Jackie to pursue a career as a boxing manager? Why are some women compelled to compete in male dominated arenas rather than female associations?
How did the spotlight affect Jackie? What are some of the challenges of success and fame?