For a long while during the 1980s and 1990s, Meg Ryan was known as the queen of romantic comedies. Yes, Meg Ryan was considered a better bet than even Julia Roberts when it came to funny love stories. However, perhaps tired of being considered cute and perky, Ryan has been appearing in anything but rom-coms these days. She played the lead in "In the Cut", a dark psychological thriller directed by Jane Campion of "The Piano" fame. In "Against the Ropes", Ryan plays someone determined to prove that women can be successful boxing managers. Ryan's efforts to branch out have met with generally disappointing reactions. Both "In the Cut" and "Against the Ropes" fared poorly at the box office, and with even a rom-com like "Kate & Leopold" finding few takers, Ryan's clout seems to be diminishing fast.
"Against the Ropes" is based on the real-life story of Jackie Kallen, one of the first women in boxing to be in charge of important business affairs. The movie begins with the young Jackie growing up in boxing gyms with her father. Later, she picks up a difficult boxer's contract on what was essentially a dare from a boxing promoter. Jackie Kallen and "Lethal" Luther Shaw go through the usual ups-and-downs of people getting to know each other. Eventually, Luther Shaw gets a chance at the big time, and Shaw and Kallen's joint success validates Kallen's pluck and initiative.
Meg Ryan does a competent job of playing Jackie Kallen, but her dramatic range is limited. There are times when Ryan's cute and perky elements rise to the surface. While they don't harm the movie, you get the sense that Ryan was falling on familiar tricks in order to carry her through a tough take. Omar Epps does a competent job, too, as the boxer taken under Jackie Kallen's wing. However, he doesn't get to do much other than be angry or acquiesce to his manager's schemes.
For the most part, the movie feels overly-familiar and pointless in a "it's just there" kind of way. We've seen too many similar rags-to-riches stories to care about the straightforward, pedestrian way in which we get to know the characters and their travails. Coupled with by-the-numbers moviemaking and supporting actors performing by rote, the whole enterprise feels much more listless than it should.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is very clean, sharp, and clear. Although colors and lighting schemes are naturalistic, Meg Ryan's eye-catching costumes are bright and attractive when appropriate. This is a very impressive video transfer.
It makes sense that a boxing movie would have a dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 English. There are plenty of moments with deep bass and immersive surrounds. However, this isn't an innovative mix, which is fine since this is essentially a drama.
You can also watch the movie with either a DD 2.0 surround English or a DD 2.0 surround French track. Optional English subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.
"A Ringside Seat" looks at the making of the movie. "Queen of the Ring: Jackie Kallen Then & Now" sheds light on the real-life boxing manager whose story inspired the movie. There's a trailer for "Against the Ropes"--a welcome appearance due to the fact that Paramount now regularly does not include trailers for the featured movies on its DVDs. Finally, there are some trailers for other Paramount movies and DVDs. The trailer for "The Spongebob Squarepants Movie", which spoofs submarine movies like "Das Boot", "The Hunt for Red October", and "U-571", is more entertaining than "Against the Ropes".
There's nothing in the keepcase other than the DVD itself.
From what I remember, Paramount didn't even know what to do with "Against the Ropes", changing the movie's release date several times. The movie was completed sometime in 2002 but was not released until February 2004. With these kinds of delays, it's obvious that Paramount executives knew that they had something on their hands that wouldn't attract crowds based on either viewer interest or word-of-mouth praise. At any rate, the movie isn't "bad" bad, but it is filled with tired clichés and re-treads of familiar grounds. This is something that is likely to put you to sleep.