Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A Ringside Seat; Queen of the Ring:
Jackie Kallen, Then And Now; Theatrical trailer.
MEG Ryan continues her journey away from romantic comedy in this
true story of one of the most successful female managers in boxing
history, but the heavyweight performance she was hoping to deliver
ends up feeling more like a featherweight.
As Jackie Kallen, Ryan attempts to do for her career what Erin
Brockovich did for Julia Roberts, but the effect, while entertaining,
is hindered by the inability of the actress to convince in the
Hence, what could (and should) have been a gutsy insight into
the way in which one woman succeeded in a male-dominated sport,
ends up being a missed opportunity for its central premise, but
a pretty good boxing yarn instead.
The decision to fictionalise most of the story doesnt help,
either, as the events depicted onscreen are more inspired by Kallens
life story, than anything else.
Whereas Kallen began her career in journalism, and then opened
her own public relations company, before making the decision to
manager her own fighters, Ryans variation begins the movie
as the boxing-obsessed daughter of a trainer, who becomes an executive
secretary to the director of the Cleveland Coliseum in a bid to
keep close to the sport.
Tired of being treated as just a woman, Kallen resolves
to make a name for herself and eventually wins a bet with Midwest
boxing kingpin, Sam LaRocca (Tony Shalhoub), which lands her with
a contract for one of his fighters, for just one dollar.
But while the fighter in question at first appears to be a dud,
more interested in smoking crack than a serious career in the
ring, Kallen happens upon the enforcer for her boxers drug
dealer (Omar Epps) and takes him under her wing, employing the
services of Charles S Duttons veteran trainer to shape his
The ensuing drama begins like a Brockovich wannabe, but quickly
drifts into Rocky territory, as Epps brash young fighter
rises through the ranks, despite being in Kallens shadow,
until his obligatory title shot, and the chance to win against
Hence, what starts out as an intriguing premise, and an opportunity
for Ryan to spread her wings, quickly runs out of steam amid the
usual, bog-standard boxing movie cliches.
Ryan doesnt really appear sassy enough to convince as someone
who has what it takes to trade verbal blows with the boxing worlds
heavyweights and quickly feels as though she is out of her depth.
So while Julia Roberts succeeded in transforming herself during
her foul-mouthed portrayal of a dedicated career woman in Steven
Soderberghs Oscar-winner, Ryan seems to be holding back
and only occasionally appears to give as good as she gets in terms
of verbal sparring.
Her weakness is made all the more glaring by Epps charismatic
turn as the emerging fighter, whose career progression becomes
far more interesting than Kallens, but she isnt helped
by Duttons manipulative direction, which seems content to
pander to the Hollywood feelgood factor, rather than
anything gritty or realistic.
Hence, viewers may emerge feeling more punch-drunk than inspired,
for this loses on a points decision in terms of enjoyment.