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With: George Walton, Tyrene Manson, Noel Santiago, Harry Keitt
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 94
Date: 01/22/1999

On the Ropes (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Ring's the Thing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

There is a scene in the new boxing documentary On the Ropes in which we see trainer Harry Keitt opening up his gym for the day. He takes a minute to gaze out the window, and we know that he's wondering if his big chance will ever come -- if his Muhammad Ali or his Mike Tyson will ever walk through his door. Then we realize that this is a documentary, and that the shot is probably faked. But then we realize that it doesn't matter. It still seems real. Like Hoop Dreams (1994), On the Ropes is a documentary that works more like a drama. It follows three Brooklynite boxers who hope for the big time. The film is shot on video by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, and it's in-your-face gritty, unafraid to show everything. Indeed, boxing is literally the only thing keeping our three characters out of jail, and we see by their everyday lives that they don't have much else. George Walton is a young boxer about to turn pro, who faces a decision whether or not to keep his old trainer or go for a big-bucks new one. Tyrene Manson is one of a new breed of women boxers. She lives with her uncle who still takes drugs, and she ends up having to attend court on the day of her big fight. Noel Santiago is a younger boxer who faces defeat and realizes just how hard it is to keep trying. On the Ropes is completely absorbing and utterly hardcore.

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