Karyn Kusama's directorial debut is as potent a boxing drama as Rocky, with solid performances and a relevant message.


D: Karyn Kusama (2000); with Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Santiago Douglas, Paul Calderon, Ray Santiago.

Diana (Rodriguez) won't take guff from anyone. It doesn't matter if it's the school slut or her loser dad, this girl is not to be messed with. Who can blame her? Her mother committed suicide, and her father only acknowledges her with insults and complaints. In pure rebellion, she begins secretly training with boxing trainer Hector (Tirelli). Romance comes in the form of the gym's top professional prospect Adrian (Douglas), but her boxing ambitions soon collide with his own goals. This story is a little predictable but intertwines vivid characters and situations that fuel Diana's evolution as a fighter and as a woman. In the end, it's a well-balanced effort with solid acting from all players. Rodriguez's performance avoids any corny glitches. At times, her icy glare is almost too sincere. In other instances, she effectively conveys her character's frustrations as an underdog in the ring and at home. Director Kusama also deserves much credit. While the fight scenes are somewhat tame, they're well-tempered and creatively shot. Likewise, the use of hand-held cameras and hardly any soundtrack (except for incidental snippets of salsa, jazz, and rap) adds to the credibility of the Brooklyn setting. Although Rocky is now being celebrated with a multi-disc collection, Girlfight is just as potent a boxing drama. It is a tale that's well-told and with messages too relevant to ignore.

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