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AGAINST THE ROPES

Meg Ryan, who took a gritty, if unwise, turn exposing herself in Jane Campionís preposterous thriller In the Cut, again goes out on a limb in this bio-pic about boxingís first female promoter. She plays Jackie Kallen, a tough-as-nails, get-it-done working girl from Cleveland. She knows boxing; her uncle was a boxer, and she now toils as a secretary for an exploitative fight promoter. That is, until the next champion of the world drops into her lap. Heís a bum from the projects (a hulking Omar Epps), and no one wants a woman in a manís game, but with enough KOs and moxie, they near a title shot.

This being a formulaic underdog yarn, adversity has to rear its head, in the form of Jackieís media-propelled id. Ryan is quite convincing (and she must have had a good time picking out the kitschy, revealing outfits that showcase the toned bod the world got to view in Cut), but at times her blue-collar speak slips into Brooklynese. And though TV actor Charles S. Dutton, who directs and plays the avuncular trainer, shows a warm affinity for the material, his effusive efforts to build a heartfelt bridge between boxer and babe are so evident that the moments of emotional clarity come off as battered clichés. (106 minutes)


Issue Date: February 20 - 26, 2004
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