Against the Ropes
“Against the Ropes” is the fictionalized account of Jackie Kallen’s real-life journey from obscurity to success as a woman in the man’s world of professional boxing. The daughter of a trainer and niece of a fighter, Kallen (Meg Ryan) is dissatisfied with her dead-end job as secretary for the manager of a major boxing venue. Her discontentment is exposed when she unexpectedly challenges Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub), the arrogant and self-absorbed manager for the middleweight champ, suggesting that she could manage boxers as well as he does. LaRocca accepts the challenge, mocking Kallen by offering her a worthless boxer to manage. But with a little luck and determination to prove herself, Kallen discovers a real prizefighter, Luther Shaw (Omar Epps). With the help of retired trainer Felix Reynolds (Charles Dutton), they make a run for the middleweight championship against LaRocca’s best boxer.
What “Against the Ropes” lacks in technical achievement and writing, it makes up for in emotional appeal. The depiction of the underdog rising to success pulls a heart string or, in this case, two, with the partnership of unlikely contenders Kallen and Shaw. Each of them having high potential that is stifled by the prejudices of the establishment, breaks free and succeeds by the sheer force of willpower. Though uplifting, the story is not exactly true to life — Kallen’s real biography involves the divorce of her husband of 30 years to pursue a career in boxing — but it’s still fun to watch. It would be more fun without the objectionable language.