Combustible Celluloid
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With: Claressa Shields, Jason Crutchfield
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 91
Date: 06/24/2016

T-Rex (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brawn Girl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This skillful, intuitive girls' boxing documentary manages to read between the lines, capturing something quite a bit deeper than a typical sports story, finding bitter desperation along with victory.

Living in Flint, Michigan, with an absent father, a drunk mother, and her mother's "disrespectful" boyfriend, Claressa "T-Rex" Shields began pursuing boxing at age 11. Working for years with trainer Jason Crutchfield, she shows a natural aptitude for the sport, and it even seems to make her a better person; she trains hard, does her schoolwork, and keeps her distance from boys.

In 2012, she qualifies for the U.S.A. Olympic team, the first year that female boxing is an actual event. After a few setbacks, she manages to take the gold medal. But when Claressa, her family, and Jason begin to envision a brighter future, things take a turn.

Co-directed by Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper, T-Rex has the expected training sequences with Shields, interviews, details about women's boxing, and, of course, some actual matches. Some of the matches turn into painful defeats, and some are happy victories.

But what really comes out are the harsh, desperate living conditions in Flint, Michigan, and the hope that all of these folks can hitch themselves to a gold medal and get out. When trainer Jason Crutchfield is subtly, but constantly battling with his dreams and his ego, and Claressa is stuck between fame and still having to struggle to pay a water bill. Even so, the filmmakers latch on to an unstoppable streak in Claressa, and things end on a hopeful note.

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