Girlfight review

Should the pushing-30 teenagers of Dawson's Creek ever drive you postal with their flawlessly delivered post-Tarantino monologues, check out Girlfight. Here's a movie that shows teenagers for what they really are - - mumbling masses of seething hormones who can have sex but are too embarrassed to talk about it, and who'll lash out or run away from any problem rather than face it.

With its poverty-line urban setting and boxing theme, the lazy description would be to call Girlfight a female Rocky, when the closest comparison is actually Strictly Ballroom. Only here, the stakes are raised, as Diana's struggle puts her in the ring against the boys rather than dancing with them.

Filmed on the streets and the projects of New York, in frequent long, handheld takes, Girlfight's every bit a low-budget movie. Much of the dialogue is almost indecipherable and the focus is occasionally way off the mark. Yet these flaws are forgivable, welcome even, in a film set in dank gyms and cramped apartments. If they were going for "gritty", they've got it.

Newcomer Michelle Rodriguez totally sells the movie. Initially clumsy and scowling, her self-belief grows alongside her boxing ability, until she enters the ring for her final bout, every bit a confident young woman as well as a dangerous fighter.

With a Yoda-like trainer, bookish brothers and friends split by her decision to fight, Diana's relationships flesh out the world she lives in as a real, thriving environment. And that's the real joy of Girlfight; like every other sports movie ever made, there's little in the way of twists or surprises. Does she train hard? Does she fall out with coach? Does she doubt her abilities? Of course, but mercifully, Girlfight is so much more than a GI Jane-style excuse to film sweaty women.

Sports movie, teen movie, date movie: Girlfight manages to be all three without compromising on any of them. Merging realistic boxing with convincing angst, here's proof that feelgood doesn't have to be a slick Hollywood affair.

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