Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The story reads like Rocky, with a gender transplant. How can boxing have sex appeal when brain surgeons say it rearranges your marbles and wipes intelligence faster than Beavis and Butthead?

Karyn Kusama's film moves across the same territory as a thousand before her and yet feels as fresh as tomorrow. If boxing was ever a noble art for multi-racial kids with limited prospects beyond dealing drugs on the street and being gunned down before they're old enough to vote, this reinforces it tenfold.

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Diana (Michelle Rodriguez) has an anger in her that erupts at high school in fights with other girls. She's in her last year, on the brink of expulsion, hating history, science, the whole authoritarian bag.

She wants out, wherever that is. She's a rebel without a gang, living in the projects, eleven floors up a high rise, with her kid brother, Tiny, and her father, who bullies them.

He pays for Tiny to box at a Brooklyn gym, even though the boy has no aptitude. Diana wanders in one day and persuades Hector (Jaime Tirelli), his Panamanian trainer, to take her on. Reluctantly, for ten bucks a week, he agrees.

Girlfight is about the girl and her rage against a world that is so pitiless her mother committed suicide, aged 37. Fighting is both physical and disciplined. Diana earns respect and discovers pride, which sounds oozy and patriotic, but isn't.

Kusama avoids the well-worn cliches by being honest and unafraid of confrontation. This is the best boxing movie since De Niro stepped into the ring for Scorsese, certainly the best-written.

Rodriguez has an intensity Method actors flaunted in the Fifties. She won't let you close. Diana talks of love as a war and Rodriguez protects her integrity with every sinew of her body. She is impregnable, the most exciting young talent for a generation.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Girlfight packshot
18-year-old girl from Brooklyn learns to become a boxer.
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Director: Karyn Kusama

Writer: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon, Santiago Douglas, Ray Santiago, Víctor Sierra, Elisa Bocanegra, Shannon Walker Williams, Louis Guss, Herb Lovelle, Thomas Barbour

Year: 2000

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


EIFF 2000

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