.

Girlfight

Michelle Rodriguez, Ray Santiago, Jaime Tirelli, Elisa Bocanegra, Santiago Douglas

Directed by Karyn Kusama
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
September 29, 2000

Girlfight visits another kind of woman warrior. Michelle Rodriguez scores a knockout debut as Diana Guzman, a trouble-prone Latina teen from the Brooklyn projects who decides, literally, to fight for her identity. Diana's single father, Sandro (Paul Calderon), lays out hard cash at the gym so his son Tiny (Ray Santiago) can train to be a boxer. When Diana decides she'd be better in the ring than her timid brother, Sandro's macho pride flares up. And that's just for starters. Diana flaunts a fuck-you attitude that ticks off everyone she encounters, including Adrian (Santiago Douglas), the hottie boxer who finally wears down her defenses without ever convincing her that he can whup her ass.

Girlfight could have been Rocky on estrogen, or one of those Sundance favorites — it shared this year's Grand Jury Prize — that allegedly make you feel warm all over, like the insufferably vapid Spitfire Grill. Instead, writer-director Karyn Kusama — a protege of indie king John Sayles — comes out punching. Kusama, an amateur boxer herself, shows none of the jitters of a first-time director; she's spoiling to be heard. And what she's done with the New Jersey-born Rodriguez, 22, an actress who's never acted and a boxer who's never boxed, is miraculous. It goes beyond the four months of boxing training that prepped the actress for the role. There are stunning close-ups of Rodriguez facing down the camera, flashing a dangerous glint that would scare off De Niro in Raging Bull. There's tenderness, too, but minus the usual cutesy goo. Rodriguez's love scenes with Douglas, another find, take on the quality of a sparring match in which each side only reluctantly gives quarter.usama uncovers layers in her characters that a lesser filmmaker would ignore in the rush to the final round. For example, Diana's hostility toward her father is given as much weight as her bout with first love. Sandro used to slap Diana's late mother into submission. It's not a situation his daughter intends to replicate. Compared to Diana's face-off with her father at home, the film's big-finish bout with Adrian in the ring feels anticlimactic, not to mention contrived. But this is nitpicking. Girlfight is a strong, stinging film, alive with conflicts that defy glib resolutions. Rodriguez smolders with the beauty and intensity of a born star, and Kusama keeps her fearlessly on her feet with a movie that ducks no punches. Final decision: They're both champions.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Nightshift”

    The Commodores | 1984

    The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com