On the Ropes


Top 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1999 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgan, Jennifer Fox, Jonathan Cohen, Nancy Baker, Theodore Shapiro, Web Davis


On the Ropes is an engrossing, emotionally charged film about a year in the life of three boxers where the stakes are higher than usual. More compelling than fiction, we see and feel in this film what it takes to make it, not just in the ring, but in life while teetering on the poverty line.

By selecting three fighters from the same neighborhood gym where Mike Tyson trained, filmmakers Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan make each story gripping and completely unique. Noel, still a teenager, lacks the necessary confidence but has a promising future; George is a rising star who feels intense pressure now that he's making the leap to the professional circuit; and Tyrene, a very determined young woman, realizes her family life is getting in the way of her dream and the judicial system is stacked against her. Tying the film together is a trainer named Harry, a fixture at the gym, whose longstanding dedication to his fighters stems from a tumultuous past he wants finally to put to rest. As the film's centerpiece, the gym provides a sense of community and is an integral part of the development of those growing up in the neighborhood.

On the Ropes contains extraordinary footage of pivotal moments in each of these people's lives, The film is gracefully edited, mixing moments from the boxers' private lives with those depicting their burgeoning careers. Always respectful, yet intimate and involving, On the Ropes shows what it takes to fight your way out.


Lisa Viola (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.