Directed by Karyn Kusama, starring Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon and Santiago Douglas.

In Karen Kusama's new boxing flick 'Girlfight', the camera sporadically picks out a selection of tatty cardboard signs pinned to the walls of a dishevelled gym. They say things like 'Boxing is brain over brawn', 'Winners never quit' and 'Champions are made not born'. Whether these are examples of pure old-fashioned fightin' talk or an attempt at pugilistic maxims, they are noticeably gender non-specific. Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is aware of the restrictions imposed by these masculine dens but the local gym (where her brother Tiny (Ray Santiago) trains), becomes a beacon of inspiration for her. As a troubled teen living in a New York City project, she is close to expulsion from school for fighting, has no real college aspirations and a rocky relationship with her unsupportive father. He happily pays for boxing tuition for her artistic brother who has little interest in the sport.

Before long, she convinces Tiny of her commitment to training and her desire to become a boxer, and assumes his place, training with Hector (Jaime Tirelli). Despite her determined focus, Diana's eye is caught by Adrian (Santiago Douglas), a rising talent on the boxing scene who agrees to spar with her. They discover similar backgrounds and begin a tentative relationship, until Diana finds out that Adrian has a girlfriend. She resolves to work harder and forget yet another disappointment at the hands of a man close to her. Adrian and Diana struggle to identify their real feelings for each other, and are forced to do so when they are drawn to fight each other in a competition match.

The film culminates with the repercussions of this fight when both dedication and love win the day. Essentially this is a classic coming-of-age drama coupled with triumph over adversity. Most people have Sylvester Stallone and the 'Rocky' films to thank for their perception of boxing gyms. Images of shoddy halls on the wrong side of the tracks in big, urban centres are for the most part realistic, but what has changed in modern times is the fact that there are a considerable number of women training in such places too. Karyn Kusama's debut film is an intriguing look at women and boxing, while it is also a sensitive account of an urban Latino girl's ambition. For an inexperienced unknown, Michelle Rodriquez boxes clever, kicks ass and undoubtedly we'll be seeing more of her - with the gloves off.

Sinéad Gleeson