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Against the Ropes

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The world of boxing is surely a tough place for a gal to get ahead, and the real-life story of Jackie Callan's determined transformation from fan and promoter's secretary to manager of top contenders is probably an interesting tale. But, whatever drama or nuance Callan's life held is utterly flattened in this rote bio-pic directed by actor Charles S. Dutton, who also co-stars. A miscast Meg Ryan tackles Callan with a perverse, and desperate, gusto; she looks awful and sounds worse, snapping off lifeless dialogue in a grating accent. Callan decides to hitch her big-boxing dreams to street thug Luthor (Omar Epps), whom she's lucky enough to spy tossing punches for fun in the hood. Like a mismatched fight, the ensuing narrative lacks any real conflict. The fight scenes are especially dull -- shot in either denuded chip-chop super-close-up or extreme long shot. And no ring outcome is ever in doubt: They might as well have cut these fight scenes and just paged us the results. This film was shelved for more than a year -- and it would have been no great loss if it had stayed in some limbo. The flop sweat is not just on the ring mat, but all over this tedious yawn of a flick. One and a half

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