Against the Ropes Studio: Paramount Year: 2004 Rated: PG-13 Length: 110 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, DD 2.0 English, French English subtitles Special Features: 2 featurettes, theatrical trailer, previews $19.95 USD Release Date: July 13, 2004 Against the Ropes is inspired by the real life story of female boxing manager Jackie Kallen. One would think that the boxing world is rife with possibilities for great stories, whether or not you are a fan. This is not one of those great stories. Now, I’m sure that Jackie Kallen has an interesting story to tell. Somewhere along the line, however, her true-life story was diluted. Facts, people, events and locations were changed, and this became a film that is “inspired by” the life of Jackie Kallen. Meg Ryan plays Jackie, a woman who grew up around boxing. Her father was a boxer, and she practically lived at the gym as a girl. I had an easier time believing in the girl who played Jackie Kallen as a pre-teen than I did Meg Ryan playing her in her late thirties. Ryan just wasn’t believable in the part. Omar Epps is the one saving grace of the film, turning in a gritty and believable performance as Jackie’s boxer, “Lethal” Luther Shaw. Second to Epps’ performance would be the over-the-top but enjoyable performance of Tony Shalhoub as a powerful rival boxing manager, crooked as they come, and able to make or break anyone’s career with a phone call. Charles S. Dutton, in addition to his directorial duties, plays Felix Reynolds, a retired trainer brought back into the biz to work with Luther. As much as I like Dutton, he didn’t seem to fill the trainer’s shoes, here. The film has one formula scene after another. That, combined with performances that didn’t sell, make this more movie-of-the-week material than feature film. Video The anamorphic image has good sharpness and detail, but there are a few scenes where very slight halos are present - especially on vertical transitions between building and sky. The color is superb - perfectly saturated in neutral tones. Black levels are strong and consistent, with detail in the shadows. Only occasional black specks mar the print. With all the promotional material within the film itself, there are a lot of hard edges around fonts in signs, etc. There is occasional mild mosquito noise visible in these areas, but one has to study the image to be aware of them. Given the often frenetic camera movements, the image isn’t stationary long enough to notice. Other than that, there are no noticeable compression artifacts to be found. There is some fine grain in the transfer, most likely from the original source elements. Audio The disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 English surround track, as well as 2.0 English and French tracks. The 5.1 track is well mixed, giving plenty of ambient sound around the boxing ring without drawing too much attention to itself. Dialog is generally pinned front and center, and is always clear and easy to understand. Bass notes in the music have plenty of oomph, and the LFE track helps out to some extent with some effects. Thankfully, the landing punches are not over done. This is a decent 5.1 mix. Special Features Special features are not anamorphic. A Ringside Seat (19:07) Interviews with: producer Robert W. Cort, Jackie Kallen, writer Cheryl Edwards, director / actor Charles S. Dutton, Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub, and others. Cast and crew explore the real life of Jackie Kallen, and the job of turning a period of her life into film. Discussion of casting choices is included. Queen of the Ring: Jackie Kallen Then & Now (8:43) Jackie Kallen tells of her early career and her transition from journalism to sports management, in the days when women just didn’t do that sort of thing. Also included are comments from Charles S. Dutton, Robert W. Cort, Meg Ryan, Omar Epps and Tony Shalhoub. Theatrical Trailer Previews Final Thoughts This is a by-the-numbers boxing movie. It might be worth a rental for genre fans, but it doesn’t work well outside the genre like Raging Bull or Rocky. The transfer is average or slightly above.