Against the Ropes (2004)

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Released 22-Mar-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-A Ringside Seat
Featurette-Queen Of The Ring: Jackie Kallen Then And Now
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 106:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charles Dutton
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Meg Ryan
Omar Epps
Charles Dutton
Tony Shalhoub
Timothy Daly
Joseph Cortese
Kerry Washington
Sean Bell
Dean McDermott
Skye McCole Bartusiak
Juan Carlos Hernández
Holt McCallany
Tory Kittles
Case ?
RPI ? Music Michael Kamen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Italian
Greek
Hebrew
Croatian
Portuguese
Slovenian
Serbian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Clint Eastwood has shown it is possible to make a decent film centred on the world of pugilism. His Million Dollar Baby is a finely crafted tale about a crusty old trainer who manages to extract something special from his young charge, even if the boxer is a she. It also delivered a decent and completely non-derivative ending which is something almost impossible to do with a boxing film.

    Which brings us to this film. Against The Ropes is no Million Dollar Baby. It follows almost every boxing film cliché and formula in the books - even though like the Eastwood-directed Academy Award winner, it too features a woman in a key role, this time as a boxing promoter.

    Meg Ryan stars as Jackie Kallen. It is inspired by a the true story of Kallen, who defied all that the male-dominated world of boxing could throw at her to become a successful boxing promoter. She was in fact the most successful female promoter ever.

     Kallen grew up in her father's boxing gym, but she was never allowed to help out - because she was a girl - but she knows the ropes so to speak. Flip forward 20 odd years and the girl has grown up and is now the over-worked and under-appreciated assistant to the manager of a large sporting venue in Cleveland. During a heated exchange with one of the biggest promoters in town, Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub), Kallen is challenged that if she were given a chance could she become a successful promoter. LaRocca sells the contract of a deadbeat boxer he has on his books, but when Kallen goes to see her new champ in the making, he's in the middle of a drug deal and most certainly not worthy of a title shot. What she does see though is another likely contender in heavy henchman Luther Shaw (Omar Epps).
   
    Shaw is rough and raw, but like every good boxing film, you can't start with a guy who is an absolute champ - they need to be moulded by a crusty old retired trainer with a chip on his shoulder.

    Enter Felix Reynolds (Charles S. Dutton - he's also the director of the film and probably should have stuck to one role). Reynolds is dragged out of retirement by Kallen, for one more shot at glory (just love those clichés). Kallen pushes Reynolds and Shaw together and slowly the duo become successful, and so does the world of new super promoter Jackie Kallen. In fact, Ms Kallen is getting so much attention that Shaw is beginning to wonder who the star of this boxing show really is.

    Trite and contrived, formulaic and clichéd. There is not a lot to like about this film. The script is awful. "Send him back to the ghetto" is about the best line out of the mouth of one of the promoters during a fight between his boy and Shaw, and the characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A reasonable transfer has been afforded this title, marred only by a little excessive grain on occasion.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a well detailed if slightly unnatural looking transfer. Clarity and detail is fine - I just thought that some of the production and set design, coupled with the unflattering costumes worn by Meg Ryan gave the whole thing a slightly too pristine and clean look, almost like an advertisement for house cleaning products rather than a movie about the grubby sport of boxing. There didn't seem to be any grime or sweat anywhere which for a boxing film seemed unlikely. A couple of minor instances of edge enhancement are the only blemishes. It looks good, perhaps just a little too good.

    Shadow detail is exemplary. Grain is present, but is well-controlled, sticking mostly to the backgrounds and it doesn't become a problem. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are vibrant and very well-saturated, but also lend themselves to the advertisement look of the production.

    There were no compression artefacts and virtually no instances of film-to-video or film artefacts either.

    There are lots of subtitles to choose from. The English variety were not perfect but conveyed enough of what was going on for everyone to understand.

    This is a dual layered disc with the layer change occurring at 63:23.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

      There are three soundtracks on the disc. The obvious English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is joined by similarly specified surround tracks in Italian and Spanish. This isn't a bad soundtrack, though it is hardly what I'd call enveloping or immersive. The action is primarily directed across the front channels with a little surround spillage for the fight scenes and training sessions.
     
    Dialogue is delivered with ease and there are no audio sync problems.

    The score is relatively unremarkable and features most of the boxing film cliché style of delivery. This ain't no Rocky folks.

    The surrounds are used only fleetingly. They spring into action during the boxing matches and that's about it, while the subwoofer receives only a light work-out and is used mainly to support some of the score in the more tense moments and some of the songs in the boxing matches.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A pretty dull set of extras for a pretty dull sort of film.

Featurette - A Ringside Seat

    A completely bland and boring fluff piece with every cast member, producer, director and the real Jackie Kallen congratulating everybody on how d*** good they all were in the making of this film. Were they watching the same film as the rest of us? Runs for 19:06 and you know exactly what to expect.

Featurette - Queen of the Ring - Jackie Kallen: Then and Now

    Not a lot different to the above featurette with the focus more on the life of the real Jackie Kallen. Runs for 8:41.

Theatrical Trailer

    Remarkably the trailer makes this look a much more interesting prospect. It hints at some real character development as opposed to the cardboard cut outs we see in the film. Runs for 2:25.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 4 has the Italian and Spanish soundtracks, whereas the Region 1 picks up French and an additional English track. Both of the extra Region 1 tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 surround only, while all three tracks on the Region 4 disc are 5.1 efforts. Everything is the same, so pick your language and pick your disc.

Summary

    Against the Ropes follows all the conventions of the well-worn boxing movie. You know how this is going to end five minutes after it has started and coupled with dull direction and a truly awful script, this is one to avoid. Meg Ryan should go back to romantic comedies. At least they had some redeeming qualities.

    The video and audio are fine, with few faults, though will hardly become demonstration material.

    The extras are dull, matching the dull film to perfection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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