Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions
The KO Picture Show
Presents. . .
Girlfight (2000)

Michelle Rodriguez: future female-version of Clint Eastwood, or Chuck Norris? Or maybe she throws us all for a loop and becomes the female Brion James!

I just saw the red carpet photos from another premiere and I have to say that Michelle Rodriguez is stunning. No qualifying adjectives needed; she's not a 'hot, new Latina star' or 'the Tomboy next store'. She is unilaterally attractive, exuding a friendliness and happiness that seems real, not forced. So this begs the question, is she happy being typecast as the 'hot, new Latina Tomboy next store'? Is this a character she's personally cultivating, or has she been pigeonholed by her first, wildly successful role in the subject of this week's review, "Girlfight"?

Rodriguez plays Diana Guzman, a high school girl with a serious chip on her shoulder. She shifts aimlessly and violently between her school life, where she's viewed as a freak, and her home life, where an uncaring father (Paul Calderon) shows little interest in her future prospects. She's missing the guidance of her mother, who killed herself after years of abuse at the hands of Diana's father. After her most recent violent outburst almost gets her expelled, she ends up at the boxing gym that her nerdy brother goes to, strictly at the behest of her father. Diana is intrigued by the training going on at the gym and wants to join in. The trainer, Hector (Jaime Tirelli), has some reservations initially, but he soon recognizes Diana's natural ability and agrees to help her.

I think it's best if I address the things I liked most about this movie. No sense in starting off negative. But it's not good news for the boxing movie purists. During the course of the movie Diana becomes involved with one of the fighters at the gym, Adrian, played by Santiago Douglas (and as a fan of boxing movies, I couldn't surpress my initial reaction to the name 'Adrian'. It just sounds so natural being yelled by Sylvester Stallone). It's the moments between Diana and Adrian that show what I feel is the stronger side of Michelle Rodriguez, and that's her tender side. I think her ability to change between tough-girl antics and vulnerability is what made her so appealling in this role. While the love story is a bit pendantic, Rodriguez exudes an honesty and shyness that barely keeps her character's sexuality at bay. My point is, it's not overt. A girl like Diana wouldn't have a lot of experience with boys, and she portrays the curiousity of a tomboy very well. It's the essential characteristic of a tomboy that's most often overlooked; the fact that SHE'S A GIRL! But it seems like her future endeavors (Fast and The Furious, S.W.A.T.) only show her tough side, which is unfortunate. That being said, she does play tough well. She's got a classic sneer (evident from the poster art alone), and during training she's believable as a female boxer (or, at least, a female boxer that's learning the ropes).

Notice I said "during training". The training pretty much takes up the first half of the movie. I have to say, I've rarely seen such a promising movie take such a sharp turn towards the ridiculous after halftime. Rodriguez looks good hitting the mitts, and her frustrations with the speed bag are earnest and a refreshing change from the usual amateur efforts given by actors-as-boxers. Then she steps in the ring and things fall to pieces. The fight choreography, as well as the fight cinematography, took me completely out of picture. It's a major problem for any boxing movie, but the combination of "staged punches" with an attempt to catch "real action" is rarely pulled off with any success. "Girlfight" is no exception.

But poor boxing footage is a minor misstep in this one. The major missteps are in the script and how they relate to Diana's actions during the last hour of the movie. I really can't put too fine a point on it... Diana beats up both her abusive father (outside the ring) and her perspective boyfriend Adrian (inside the ring) during the last hour. And this isn't a complaint based in sexism. I'm sure there's plenty of women who can beat up their dads and their boyfriends. But the young woman portrayed in this movie cannot. Watching her, for lack of a better word, 'manhandle' her obviously bigger father during a family fight and pummel her athletically sculpted and 'about to go pro' boyfriend was just not believable to me. Rodriguez is tough, but I didn't find her tough enough to pull these scenes off.


The Fightin' - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
As I mentioned before, the training scenes were good, but the footage between the ropes was laughable. And the "Big Fight Finale" between Diana and her man was even more unbelievable. The idea is that they end up meeting in a tournament of some sort. I'm sorry, but I find the idea of a NY-based amateur boxing tournament (PAL or Golden Gloves is noticeably never mentioned) that only draws 3 fights for each competitor, and has so few lightweight entries that they have to combine the men and women, patently ridiculous. Where were they advertising for this tournament? Were the billboards and flyers mistakenly sent to another country?

On top of all this, Adrian isn't some scrawny, young kid. He's put together and looks at least 15 pounds heavier than Diana. The idea that they're in the same weight class is hard to swallow. The idea that Diana would kick his ass so badly is Heimlich-worthy.


Overall Rating - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Despite the script's shortcomings, this was a break-out performance for Michelle Rodriguez. Unfortunately, it seems like only one aspect of her performance is going to be repeated in each suceeding movie (with less and less effectiveness). There's more to her and that's made very evident in this movie. It's ironic to me that a film that is lauded as breaking down the walls of sexism and who's star is the poster girl for "girl power" is now the basis for typecasting that same actress as a one-note "tough-chick". Did the casting directors not see the movie? Did they just see the sneering visage on the poster? Is Rodriguez going to be punching out every man within arm's reach for the rest of her career? I sincerely hope not.

Rob Tillisch
Back to The KO Picture Show
Main Page!
Starring: Michelle Rodriguez
"Reviewing the best (and worst) in Pugilistic Pictures!"
Fistic Female Month
The KO Picture Show