on September 29, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
   Writer-director Karyn Kusama's tale is set in the violent world of boxing. Diana, the only daughter of a single dad, has no outlet for her rage and is about to be expelled for fighting at school. In an effort to channel her emotions, she begins training at a local boxing gym behind her dad's back, stealing money from his sock drawer and pawning family heirlooms to raise the funds.

   It's at the gym that she meets Adrian (Santiago Douglas)--an ode to "Rocky"?--an aspiring professional boxer who breaks her heart when he prefers a hottie hanger-on over her but eventually comes around. However, in a sport in which female competitors are few, Diana finds herself mostly fighting men, and it's inevitable that she meets her love in the ring in a bout for the local championship--an in-your-face version of the same career-versus-relationship conflicts in New Line's recently released "Love and Basketball."

   "Girlfight" is set in dirty, dangerous neighborhoods and boldly sanctions physicality as a solution to conflicts. It's a daring vision, to be sure, and one that deserves attention and even admiration, but "Girlfight" relies on the performance of Rodriguez to carry it, and the inexperienced actress mistakes a constant glower for depth.    Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Santiago Douglas, Ray Santiago, Elsa Bocanegra and Paul Calderon. Directed and written by Karyn Kusama. Produced by Sarah Green, Martha Griffin and Maggie Renzi. A Columbia release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 110 min.

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