'Shadow Boxers' DVD Review **** 081205

The Work = ****
'Shadow Boxers' is a sold documentary looking at women’s boxing, primarily through the career of Lucia Rijker. 'Shadow Boxers' uses a pretty broad brush and does not get too in depth into the history of the sport. It does mention that the sport has been around since at least the 1930s. However, it existed mostly as a sort of oddity type exhibition with little to no regulation.

This leads into one of the weaknesses of 'Shadow Boxers'. There really is only the briefest of mention of the history behind women’s boxing and only one interview that I recall with a retired female boxer. That is too bad because they helped to start the foundation that lead to the current string of female fighters. It is still a growing sport and its history is important to understand how it came to be what it is today.

Although there are interviews with other boxers the documentary settles into following Rijker. Even just seeing her practice shows she has real skill. Watching her fight is impressive, she is fast and imposing. I wish the filmmakers had not cut up her fights quite so much. 'Shadow Boxers' has a quick pace to it that occasionally gets in the way of showing the boxers in the ring. The cuts may make the fights faster but they can hide the skill of the fighter, particularly when it is someone like Rijker.

I really enjoyed this film but it is pretty surface level. The interviews with Rijker are solid but I really wanted to know more about her. There was a bit about her trainer but I also wanted to know more about him as well. It was interesting that he appeared to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease. I couldn’t be certain but is mannerisms did resemble traits of that disease. It would have been interesting to see how that affects a former boxer and now trainer.

Rijker has recently gained some notoriety because of her appearance in Clint Eastwood’s film 'Million Dollar Baby'. She not only played a scary opponent of Hillary Swanks but she was also Swank’s personal trainer. She did have a real presence onscreen and I am interested to see if she can find success in film. I hope her fame helps to bring attention to this film and women’s boxing in general.

First time director Katya Bankowsky brings flare to the documentary. (I swear I read or saw somewhere that she was a boxer but now can't find the article and/ or clip.) There is some effective use of black and white footage and a quick editing pace. The film moves along at a brisk clip that makes for good entertainment but left me wanting more. It is a shame that the film does not get a little more in depth in its subject and I really wanted more info on the fighters, especially Rijker.

DVD = ***

The Look
The film is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen. This looks to have been a pretty low budget production and as such the picture is just so-so. It has a pretty low res’ look although I suspect that is due to the source material. Still the film looks artsy and the transfer at the least does convey 'Shadow Boxers' style.

The Sound
The DVD just has a 2.0 Dolby track. The track did sound pretty good but not great. Unfortunately there are no subtitles.

The Bonus
Not much in the way of extra features here. An update on Rijker would have been nice as would a full making of documentary. Another good inclusion would have been some uncut fights. Hell even the trailer. All that is on the disc is a very brief interview segment from the IFC series 'At the Angelica'. While it does offer a quick interview with Bankowsky, it is far too short. Most disappointing of all there are no new interviews with Rijker. Come on, somebody rerelease this one, it deserves it. More features!!!!!!

All Together = ****
'Shadow Boxers' is the perfect title for this documentary. These women are boxing in the shadows of their male counterparts. They are slowly fighting their way out and women like Rijker make huge advances pushing the sport farther and farther into the public eye. Yes, this film has some faults but it looks like it was made on a shoe string budget and its heart is in the right place.

The footage of fights and interviews with the boxers (particularly Rijker) make this film a strong recommendation alone. Bankowsky brings a strong sense of style to material that occasionally gets in the way of the fights she is depicting but for the most part helps to give the film a strong visual edge. I wanted more from the DVD, especially in terms of extra features which this flic’ is just screaming for. Despite the DVD this is still a strong recommendation.


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