Estrogen meets testosterone in a battle of true grit gladiators.
Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is a Brooklyn girl who has not had an easy
time of it. She doesn't fit too easily into the world around her, much less
the neighborhood into which she's been born. To describe her as a
"tom-boy" would be too reserved. Her masculine traits are a bigger
source of disappointment to father Sandro (Paul Calderon), than are her brother
Tiny's (Ray Santiago) softer, more intellectual traits. Sandro would like to
see Diana wearing dresses and Tiny throwing fists. Role-playing,
unfortunately, doesn't suit the siblings of the Guzman family. In her
adolescent discontent, Diana appears to be on a hell bent road toward
self-destruction, not completely of her own making. Trapped by her
environment, she has no easy outlet for her furies.
Once discovering the smelly halls of the local athletic club, however, where
her brother reluctantly trains, she finds a milieu that suits her to a T. Her
affinity with boxing reveals itself immediately as she jumps into the ring and
decks Ray (Victor Sierra), her brother's opponent, who usually depends on the
cheap shot to win his games. Until now, her fighting had remained restricted
to school hallways, playgrounds, and streets. Away from the bustle and
feeling at home among the muscle, she manages (by hook and by crook) to gather
together enough cash to enroll under trainer Hector (Jaime Tirelli) at the
club. Scheming and planning every inch of the way, she works toward achieving
her new goal while simultaneously learning the important aspects of balance,
control and endurance; Hard work and discipline assist in making a personal
dream come true.
Despite difficulties at home, she grows closer to her brother as they develop
a new understanding of each other. Her relationship with a dismissive father,
however, never appears to offer any method for healing the wounds of the past.
In anger, she vehemently tells him that "Everything I learned about
losing, I learned from you!" Previous to her activities at the club, the
only close friend she had was Marisol (Elisa Bocanegra), a student at the
school who understands Diana better than anyone else.
Diana's venture into the world of boxing also introduces her to a first
romance when she meets Adrian (Santiago Douglas), a good-looking young
featherweight with hopes of becoming a professional boxer. While the gym
helps develop Diana's body, a relationship with Adrian helps soften her
personality as she ripens into a woman. Of course, one can expect that the
problem might eventually raise its head as to who is ultimately going to wear
the shorts in this relationship. Growing into an adult and a woman, Diana
must decide which things are most important to her.
The rough edges of newcomer Michelle Rodriguez in her debut role suitably
give vent to an explosive personality fighting her way out of a gritty world.
The documentary style of the film sharpens these edges even more. Santiago
Douglas, an actor who has already been seen in "The Sopranos" and
"Murder She Wrote" sensitively portrays her romantic partner among
the rough and tumble. (Also take note of "Girlfight" producer John Sayles
appearing in a cameo as the science teacher.)
Writer and director Karyn Kusama, who began boxing in her early twenties,
says, "Boxing is very intimate. It strangely moving to see two people
agree to be in a ring together to fight each other, yet it's necessarily
tragic -- somebody loses and somebody wins. I find it one of the purest
sports, a very powerful confrontation between you and your opponent".
She adds that, "In boxing, as in any sport, you are confronting
Winner of Best Direction and (shared) Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance
Festival of 2000. Take that!
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett