We've gotten so used to seeing Meg Ryan in romantic comedies as "the girl next door" type, that it has become very hard to accept her in any other movie role. And despite the fact that she does her best in Against The Ropes, Ryan is woefully miscast as boxing manager Jackie Kallen – a part that should have gone to someone who is a little more rough-around-the-edges than Ryan.
But after hearing the "buzz" on how bad this movie was supposed to be, I'm here to tell you that it's not as god-awful as you've heard. You probably won't want to run out and buy it, but it's engaging enough for an evening's worth of entertainment.
The movie is directed by Charles S. Dutton, who also has given himself one of the best roles in the movie – playing the manager of fighter Luthor Shaw (Omar Epps), the man Jackie has recruited in an attempt to take her to the top of the boxing world. As miscast as Ryan is in her part, Dutton fits almost perfectly into the shoes of the crusty older manager – looking for one last shot at glory.
Also doing a good job is Omar Epps as Shaw, a drug dealer from the wrong side of the tracks that Jackie just meets by chance, and then decides to give him a contract as a fighter. Other notable appearances in the film include Tony Shalhoub playing it way over-the-top as a sleazy boxing promoter; and Tim Daly (hey, it's a Wings reunion!) as a local Cleveland broadcaster who is the first to bring Jackie into the public eye.
I suppose the biggest problem I had with the movie is that its title character isn't exactly an appealing one. While Ryan does try and insert a little feeling and heart into her portrayal of Jackie Kallen, the behind the scenes material on the DVD (and everything I've seen about Kallen elsewhere) shows her to be little more than self-promoting and media-hungry. In the film, Ryan's Kallen learns her lesson before the credits roll…but there's little evidence that the real-life Kallen has done the same.
The video is presented in widescreen anamorphic in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While there is little evidence of dirt or grain on the print, I was a little surprised at the soft look that the video had, considering this is a recently-filmed movie.
Viewers will get three options in the audio department. There's an English 5.1 Dolby Track, an English 2.0 Dolby Track, and a French 2.0 Dolby Track. The 5.1 Track sounds quite good and is aggressive at times, particularly when a piece of soundtrack music is pumping in the background. English subtitles are also an available option.
Paramount has only done a so-so job with the extras on this DVD. One thing that the viewer will immediately notice upon inserting the disc is that a screen will come up asking the viewer to choose between Previews and Menu, the former of which will take you to the Trailers section of the DVD – offering up trailers of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The Prince & Me, The Perfect Score, and Paycheck.
Movie-related extras include A Ringside Seat, which is a 19-mintue behind the scenes look at the making of Against The Ropes; and Queen of the Ring, which is an closer look at the career of Jackie Kallen and runs about 8-minutes in length. Both these featurettes include interview material with the real-life Kallen. There's also the Theatrical Trailer for the film, which tries – and fails – to make the movie look like a Meg Ryan comedy, which it most certainly isn't.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you're a fan of Meg's romantic comedies, skip this one. If you're a boxing fan or a fan of sports films, then you may want to rent Against The Ropes and check it out. It's not quite a "good movie", but it's not the disaster that many others have made it out to be, either.