In the same way that male actors have shot to stardom in years past by lacing on a pair of boxing gloves (think William Holden in Golden Boy, Kirk Douglas in Champion and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky), so newcomer Michelle Rodriguez commands notice as a pugnacious pugilist in Girlfight.
The movie itself is a feminist coming-of-age film set in a poor Brooklyn neighborhood. Tyro writer-director Karyn Kusama tries to cover too much ground and adds an ending as hokey as any from one of the later Rocky films, but Rodriguez, playing a disaffected Latina high school student who finds self-respect in the ring, transforms Girlfight into something special. Time will tell whether she can play characters who don't box, but she's a knockout here. (R)