October 19, 2001 -- "Girl Fight" is a story about a sullen, angry young woman, Diana Guzman (played powerfully by Michelle Rodriguez who would later star in "The Fast and the Furious"), who has trouble handling her hostility. She's about to get kicked out of school for fighting when she finds a way to channel that anger and hostility into something positive: prize fighting.
It sounds strange, but first-time writer-director Karyn Kusama makes it seem believable (the big question is, how come someone with this much talent isn't getting more opportunities in Hollywood?). Cinematographer Patrick Cady does a good job of showing us the inside of the fight game with slow-motion and close-up shots in the ring emphasizing punch combinations and footwork. We get to see how boxing "clicks" with Guzman. Rodriguez is very believable as a boxer. She seems tough and her body looks capable of dealing out punishment. She also shows us a soft side, however, especially in her love scenes with her fellow boxer boyfriend Adrian (Santiago Douglas). Wasn't that the same name as Rocky Balboa's wife?
Guzman's no-good father, Sandro (Paul Calderon of "Out of Sight") is one of the big problems that she has to overcome in her life. Guzman is greatly helped by her boyfriend, her boxing coach, Hector (Jaime Tirelli of "Carlito's Way") and her brother, Tiny (Ray Santiago). Coach Hector becomes sort of like a surrogate father to the girl. It is a nice performance by Tirelli, who at first finds Guzman a nuisance, but later respects her, not only for her talent, but for the hard work she puts in to make herself better. One of the memorable scenes in the film is a physical confrontation between Guzman and her father. Another is one in which Hector expresses his pride in what he and Guzman have accomplished together. There are also some good scenes between Guzman and her boyfriend.
It seems like this is an old-fashioned sports movie, but one in which the most brutal of all sports, boxing, is portrayed in a way that seems quite positive. We get to know some of the inside secrets of the fight game. The story argues that boxing is as much about strategy and out-thinking your opponent as it is about brute power. It also makes a strong case that some people are drawn naturally to the sport and that it can greatly enhance a person's self-esteem. In that way, it is a little like other sports films like "Rudy." The film certainly doesn't apologize for boxing at all. This also seems to be a feminist movie, but it certainly isn't blatant about it. The approach is more matter-of-fact. The love story itself is more profound than the above movie themes. The story argues that love must be based on one thing above all others: respect. This film rates a B. I saw this film on VHS tape.
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