One more fight at school and Diana, played with sullen intensity by newcomer
Michelle Rodriguez, will be expelled. Living in a Brooklyn ghetto and with
a dead-end life, Diana decides to channel her energy into boxing at the gym
like her brother (Ray Santiago).
Once she begins to fight, the angry and depressed Diana begins to find some
relief from her surroundings. Although the seedy gym, The Brooklyn Boys'
Club, where she trains is even more rundown than the miniscule apartment she
shares with her father (Paul Calderon) and brother, she gets the fulfillment
from her sport that she has never gotten from school. Rodriguez's
impressive acting debut, however, is the only real reason to see GIRLFIGHT.
Although first-time writer and director Karyn Kusama spent 5 years preparing
this project, the script is significantly underdeveloped and the director
sets a lethargic pace. Think of the film as ROCKY ON VALIUM. There's lots
of brooding teenage angst, but remarkably little ever happens. Only in a
dramatic confrontation scene with her father, in which she tells him,
"Everything I know about losing I learned from you, Dad," does the movie
have much emotional impact.
The picture follows a completely formulaic arc toward the big concluding
match. The gym features lots of clichéd signs ("Champions are made not
born." "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."), even though the movie
wants badly to be taken as something more than another Rocky Balboa story.
Nevertheless, the movie is one-idea story -- girl rather than boy as young
boxer -- that never gets fleshed out beyond its concept.
Diana's boyfriend is a handsome fighter named Adrian (Santiago Douglas).
Want to bet on whom she boxes in the concluding match? Want to bet who is
going to win?
The only surprise is how the final fight is edited. After waiting for an
entire movie for it come alive, the ending bout happens so fast that, if you
blink a few times, you'll miss it. I told actor Santiago Douglas, who was
at our screening, that I did not like the way it was edited down to almost
nothing. He rolled his eyes and said only, "I agree. I agree."
GIRLFIGHT runs 1:50. It is rated R for language and would be acceptable for
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes