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CrankyCritic® movie reviews:

Click for full size poster

On The Ropes

Not Rated, 94 minutes
A documentary
Directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen
no website

For new readers: The low rating is not necessarily a verdict on quality. The dollar ratings refer to real-life purchase price for obtaining movies, whether first run tickets or mid-week rentals, which is where On The Ropes falls. Click here for details.

There's not much future for those that grow up in the ghetto of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City. You can deal drugs. You can go to jail. A lucky few, those who manage not to either get pregnant or father babies, manage to graduate from school. A very few take a different path, one which leads to the Bed-Stuy Boxing Center and perhaps a trip to the Golden Gloves tournament and success as a pro boxer. On The Ropes, a documentary from Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen tracks a year or so in the careers of three youngsters. It's a fairly matter of fact story. One kid has talent, one kid has drive, one lacks both and one gets screwed by the system. No, you didn't see Cranky mess up the math, one kidlet gets taken down unfairly.

At the center of it all is Harry Keitt, a once upon a time sparring partner of Mohammed Ali. Harry ditched a pro career for drugs and petty crime. After four years in Sing Sing Prison, Harry returned to the streets of Bed-Stuy, clean and determined to make a name for himself as a trainer. His top prospects are Tyrene Manson, 26, who is raising her deceased aunt's two children. A good church-going girl, Tyrene's only problem is that she shares an apartment with her AIDS infected, drug dealing uncle, the father of the kidlets. Let your imagination run wild. What happens to Tyrene will truly piss you off.

Behind door number two is Noel Santiago, 17, whose mom is a recovering crack addict and whose dad died of AIDS when he was a child. A cousin brought him to Harry, to help straighten the boy out. Three years of training later, Noel qualifies for the Golden Gloves. Problem is, three years of training does not equal three years of motivation. Noel is facing the same crossroads mentioned above.

Hot prospect number three is George Walton, 23, a 1996 Golden Gloves champion. George is Harry's ticket up from obscurity, a boxer with drive and talent. But George is warned by his friends that the pro managers and agents are just as crooked as the drug dealers on the street.

Cranky isn't promising any happy endings to these real stories. Real life isn't Rocky (any of 'em) and the infuriating unfairness that reveals itself won't let you leave a theater happy and cheering. The film is punctuated with rap music whose lyrics probably have something to do with the stories -- the rhythm is fine but the rap is completely unintelligible to these pale ears. Technically, the sound recording is terrible and the sound mix with rap songs and street sounds muddles everything. Street rap is difficult enough to understand without attempting fancy production over bad recordings.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to On The Ropes, he would have paid...


mid-week rental level. If your preferred seat is in an arthouse, you're well advised to see it there. On The Ropes is probably not for the mainstream crowd, thus the rental level rating.

The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.