With Hollywood only now beginning to emerge from the COVID shutdown, there is a dearth of movies available anywhere. As television and streaming are on the lower tier in the Hollywood supply chain, the pickings have become increasingly slim. Prime video’s catalogue is reaching back into the 1990’s with some truly terrible movies, including one by Jodi Foster, who I thought was incapable of doing a bad movie, but she proved me wrong with the film Backtrack—a mess of a film that Director Dennis Hopper disowned and had a nom de plume replace his own on the film credits.
With that as background, we took a look at a 2004 Meg Ryan movie—Against the Ropes—the biopic of female boxing promotor Jackie Kallan. This movie had the look and feel of a made-for-tv movie even though it had a nearly $40-Million budget. (Rocky, by contrast, was made for the equivalent of $2.5 Million 2004 dollars). But the big surprise came three minutes into the movie when we find ourselves at the corner of York and Bay Streets in Hamilton looking at a Copps Coliseum, subbing as the Cleveland Coliseum. It turns out, most of the boxing scenes were shot in Hamilton.
Meg Ryan’s character, Jackie Kallan was a real-life Detroit entertainment journalist, who got interested in boxing when she interviewed Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. Kallan went on to manage several boxers in a male-dominated sport. Maybe there is only one way to make a boxing movie, and if that is the case, this one did not deviate from the pattern. The movie ends, as they all do, with the protagonist Luther Shaw, played by Omar Epps, a massive underdog, delivering a final-round knockout against his opponent, after absorbing enough punishment to kill ten men. Heading into the final round with the Omar Epps character slumped in his corner, a mangled mess. The Meg Ryan character walks up to the ring and whispers words of encouragement to her protégé, and KA-BOOM Epps jumps to his feet and finishes the job.
The only critic who liked the film, which was a box-office flop losing $26 Million, amazingly, was the hard-to-please Roger Ebert. Ebert acknowledged most of the film’s flaws, including the fact that the talented Meg Ryan was probably not right for the part, but he felt the last third of the film redeemed it enough to garner three out of four stars.
For me there was a mild distraction in the 2004 film, in a scene where Meg is in Copps, coming down the escalator, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the last time that escalator worked.