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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look67.5%
Average: 5%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 5%

4 reviews, 16 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"More mold, but Rodriguez manages to put a dent in it."
4 stars

A lot of "Girlfight" is your generic brand of rebellion and inspiration, but then surprisingly, and without shattering the mold, it turns into it's own innocuous event. It has its heart in the right place, which is common for a movie of this stature, and although the story covers no new ground (but it does it from a different point of view) there is a breakthrough role for Michelle Rodriguez --in her debut.

Set amidst the projects of New York, Diana Guzman (Rodriguez) is a no-nonsense, no B.S. type of girl. If she doesn't like you, you'll know. And if you gotta problem with that, chances are, you don't wanna take it up with her. Diana's tough, but she's pretty alienated by friends and her father (Paul Calderon). Living with only her father and brother (Ray Santiago) --her mother's dead-- she's constantly in trouble. So to get her aggression out, Diana decides to learn to box --something her father would prohibit, ergo the privacy and secrecy she undertakes.

Funds are difficult for her to get, so needless to say that will serve as a conflict. And to round the story out, Diana will acquire a love interest, fellow boxer, Adrian (Santiago Douglas). This story has been seen many times before, but both the physical strength of Rodriguez is as prominent as is the impression she leaves on the screen.

"Girlfight" is commensurately connected to two movies from this year just off the top of my head: "Center Stage" and the upcoming "Billy Elliot" (though I saw "Elliot" in an earlier screening). All three movies fit into the category of a strong talent the protagonist possesses, and the struggle they face against a parent or institution that doesn't want to give them the light of day. Diana wanted to box, but her father was against it. In "Billy Elliot," the boy was in boxing, but discovered his knack for ballet, which his father would come to forbid. And in "Center Stage," the young woman obviously had a vehemence for ballet as well, but the school paid her no attention --these movies weave together like a slightly scalene triangle, because the end effect and total sum are not quite equal. "Girlfight" K-Os "Billy Elliot," which was a little too little, too late, but also has a slight hand (or glove) over "Center Stage" because it comes down to realism versus unrealistic staginess.

This isn't "Rocky" and they don't have her stepping inside the ring kicking everyones butt. It's played out far more realistically. With each fight, she gains a little more, but there is no real K-O. In a way, it really doesn't play to the audience's desire of seeing her whoop everybody, but because it doesn't do that, I respect it more. "Girlfight" contains plenty of shots of factitious motivational signs. ("When you're not training, someone else is training to kick your ass," or "It's not the size of the dog's fight, but the size of the fight IN the dog.") And first time writer/director Karyn Kusama never pushes that fault too far.

Kusama did a good job with the actors, especially when it came to the character of Diana and the bad relationship between her and her father. But Kusama also has a propensity to over-emphasize the obvious and sentimental until it escalates too far. Her script is quasi-mundane, but many of her characters are brought to life . A certain clash of romance (the timely, pushed, but still pleasant and endearing kisses) and humor (During P.E. testing, a frustrated, irate girls comments, "I don't give a fuck what the president thinks of my fitness!") keep it buoyant.

The ending was somewhat ambiguous and cataleptic; I don't think audiences will totally go for that. And I had a problem with Patrick Cady's cinematography. It wiggled, it wobbled, and even got into the ring during the matches. The camera work was too jumpy and obtrusive --it became part of the fight instead of observing it, which is a mistake. We don't need the cross-cutting of frames, tossing us in and out of the ring. Take a corner and with as little maneuvering as possible, follow the fight instead of getting in the middle of it.

My advocacy comes from an excellent performance by Rodriguez. Her tough, patchy, yet still compelling and realistic acting lent her credibility as this tough-as-nails-gal! No Hollywood starlet could have encompassed the street smarts and attitude Rodriguez brought. She's pretty, not in a beauty queen way, but she's very physically appealing. (And with no prior boxing experience , Rodriguez trained 5-months before getting in front of the cameras.) And further, it's pleasant to see a positive, more realistic movie come from the Latino community. "Girlfight" sure beats the hell out of the cardboardness, platitudinous, phony nature along the ranks of the insipidly cornball Latino/boxing movie from earlier this year, "The Price of Glory."

Final Verdict: B+.

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originally posted: 09/29/00 18:03:23
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User Comments

3/29/17 Anne Selby Somewhat cliche yet pulls you in 3 stars
12/14/09 RLan A good film. Rodriguez did a great job as the lead. 4 stars
11/17/07 Jennifer The movie was good, so acting seemed overdone yet decent 4 stars
8/16/05 ES I was hoping this movie would rock considering the hype, too bad stifles under bad acting 2 stars
7/31/03 The Talking Elbow Vance might be right but this was a good movie 4 stars
7/01/02 Harmony It was a wonderful ,exciting movie.And M. Rodriguez did a WONDERFUL job.she is the BEST! 5 stars
3/21/02 Vance Movie was bullshit! Both boxers hit like women (or people who have never fought before). 1 stars
3/10/02 Ashley Santiago Douglas is so damn fucking hot!! 5 stars
11/02/01 kinga It's worth looking, because of it's great-new portrait of the young woman. 4 stars
6/22/01 brentley Rodriguez was excellent. Her performance alone is worth taking a look at the movie. 4 stars
4/17/01 The Bomb 69 Rodriguez gave a great performance but the movie was slow and cliched 3 stars
1/30/01 Terabinx It's a cliche bending movie, that is definately busting a few stereotypical balls. 4 stars
1/06/01 EDY BUREW BAD 1 stars
11/09/00 MO Great acting by Michelle Rodriguez 4 stars
10/06/00 JL This movie has many good actors. Though not a great film its alright. 4 stars
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  23-Nov-2000 (M)

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