Boxing fans and fans of latest trends may remember female boxing promoter Jackie Kallen. She made quite the buzz when she hit the scene in what must have been the late eighties or early nineties. See, the trouble is, I can’t find out exactly when she started because every web-search you do for this “Erin Brockovich of boxing,” you only come up with articles about her, not the boxers she promotes. Ironically, that’s what “Against the Ropes” is all about.
Kallen (Ryan) is an office assistant for a Cleveland sports arena, and she’s a damn good one. Organized, peppy and easy on the eyes, she makes her boss and his friends look good with her superb organizational and people skills. However, the men she serves treat her poorly and walk all over her. Kallen finally opens her mouth and tells mafioso boxing manager Sam LaRocca (Shalhoub) that she thinks she can manage a boxer as well as he can. He takes her bet and round one begins.
Kallen meets rough and tumble hood Luther Shaw (Epps) and “Against the Ropes” then goes on to be pretty much the exact stereotype of every sports movie, especially boxing, ever made. Literally. I mean, I may have just given the whole movie away here. However, the cliches aren’t what bothered me.
What really left a funky taste in my mouth afterwards is how this film has the balls to not only be overtly sexist against women, it also seemed to be subversively racist. I know that’s a big claim and I’m not trying to play the race or minority card, but I can’t quit thinking that.
As Shaw gets better as a boxer, Kallen begins to hog the spotlight. People start to resent her and think she’s an egomaniac. Hello!? This is BOXING! It’s an egomaniacal sport! However, if a woman uses some self promotion and a little bombast, we should think she should zip her lip and head back into the kitchen? That seemed to be a partial message in “Against the Ropes.”
Maybe I’m being oversensitive and maybe this film was made to spark debate…although I doubt it. But the resolution of Kallen’s actions here just came off as contrived and socially misleading. Is it really what happened, seeing as this film is based on real events? Looking at Kallen’s webpage, I would say it definitely is not as she appears to be continuing her well executed self promotion and is still as strong willed as ever. However, maybe the Hollywood answer really is what I alluded to in terms of a woman’s place in society.
I will say that the acting and chemistry on-screen is pretty good. Ryan pulls off the tough but sensitive Kallen really well and Dutton and Epps fit perfectly. Plus, anytime there’s two people knocking each other around in a boxing ring, it’s bound to be at least mildly entertaining. Yet overall, this is just another boxing movie with few surprises and an awkward message to viewers.
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