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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Girlfight

Starring: Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli
Director: Karyn Kusama
Rated: NR
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: Santiago Douglas, Ray Santiago, Elisa Bocanegra, John Sayles, Shannon Williams, Paul Calderon

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
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Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 teenagers.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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