Girlfight (review)

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Diana Guzman greets us with a hard stare up from under her eyelashes as Girlfight opens, and right away we know that this will be no ordinary, wimpy chick flick… and that newcomer Michelle Rodriguez will rivet us with a charismatic, star-making performance. First-time writer/director Karyn Kusama has created in Diana a strong, dynamic, complex female character the likes of which we rarely see onscreen: So generally angry at her dead-end life in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that fellow high school student call her “psycho,” Diana discovers the perfect release for her aggression: boxing. But the rundown Brooklyn Athletic Club isn’t quite ready for women’s lib — her male opponents gripe about the “humiliation” of having to fight a girl, and even her bitter and distant father (Paul Calderon: Oxygen) rags on her for not being feminine enough. When a female opponent suddenly appears, it’s like a revelation — Diana isn’t quite the only girl wearing boxing gloves — but mostly she’s left to fend for herself outside the ring as well as in. In the absence of a female equivalent for the term “angry young man” and all that it implies, let’s use “Rodriguez” — she burns up the screen with a fiery intensity that elevates a sometimes clichéd sports story far above the ordinary. And refreshingly, hers is a tale of female liberation and self-discovery that doesn’t feel the need to put down men or defeminize women. Though one male boxer complains that “this equality crap has gone too far,” Diana fights hard and on her own terms to prove him wrong. And that equality crap hasn’t gone far enough yet, because I unfortunately have to come out and say that though this film is about a girl, Girlfight is a must-see for men as well as women.

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