Tag Archives: Against the Ropes

Legal Eagles, Raging Blondes

Boxing movies and legal dramas have long been a staple of the cinema. From Fat City and On the Waterfront  to 12 Angry Men and The Verdict, audiences love to see an underdog triumph, whether in the squared circle or the court room.
Meg Ryan doesn’t land any punches in boxing biopic Against the Ropes, although she is at times a raging blonde, in the role of Jackie Kallen, the first female manager in the blood-stained world of professional boxing.
Played here as a modern-day single female, Jackie is a golden-tressed, golden-hearted trier, who quits her job to manage rookie boxer “Lethal” Luther Shaw. Brushing aside mobbed-up promoters and opponents alike, Luther proceeds to tear through the undercards to title contention in just 15 minutes of carefully choreographed screen time.
Ryan, strutting her stuff Erin Brockovich-style, is a knockout to look at, even though she only won the part after Michelle Pfeiffer turned it down. I have no idea if Meg is better or worse than Michelle would have been. I only know after having its release date delayed by almost two years, Against the Ropes bombed at the box office in 2004.
If Against the Ropes left Meg on the canvas, I am Sam showcased Michelle Pfeiffer at her counter punching best. It may be too saccharine for some, but I am Sam does boast Laura Dern, Dakota Fanning, Sean Penn and Dianne Wiest flexing their well defined acting muscles.
Penn was a revelation as the eponymous Sam, a Beatles-loving, single father with a mental age of 7, fighting against the social system for custody of his 7-year-old daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning).In his corner we find highly-strung, uber lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), taking the case on a pro bono basis, to prove to her colleagues that she’s more than just a PR-hungry, morally questionable, Porsche-driving schyster.
Rita gave Pfeiffer one of the more interesting roles of her career. Michelle played her as the controlling, manic individual that she is, yet managed to convey the reasons behind her complexities, generating sympathy along the way.
Where Meg Ryan, was in full, head-turning, ultra-glossy mode in Against the Ropes, Michelle didn’t pull any punches, even kicking down a door while wearing a pair of high-heeled, suede boots.
Lovely Rita could have been a contender, unlike Jackie Kallen, whose blend of confidence and cleavage rang as phoney as a fixed fight. Throwing a mean left hook of undisputed emotion and an even meaner jab of humour, Michelle epitomised the contemporary, coiffured, over-caffeinated, career women.



Filed under Retrospective