Movie review of “T-Rex”: Claressa Shields, a member of Team USA Boxing in the 2016 Summer Olympics, is the subject of this documentary, which traces her difficult journey to a gold medal in 2012. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
With amateur boxer Claressa Shields’ participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics right around the corner, this is a good time to catch “T-Rex,” a touching documentary about the now-21-year-old athlete’s previous Olympic triumph.
Shields won the 2012 gold medal in women’s boxing, the first time the international competition recognized the sport. “T-Rex” follows her personal trials and determination during adolescence to overcome a hard life in Flint, Mich.
Besides economic distress, there are strong suggestions of problems at home. But troubles are shoved to the side whenever Shields, a fast and aggressive middleweight, is working in a gym with her coach, Jason Crutchfield. He insists his fighters take on a “business” mentality, letting go of disappointment and defeat and putting personal matters on indefinite hold. When Shields becomes involved with a boy who happens to be her sparring partner, Crutchfield sternly forbids it.
Movie Review ★★★
‘T-Rex,’ a documentary directed by Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari. 90 minutes. Not rated; contains some language and boxing violence. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
Filmmakers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari overcome the film’s low-tech look with refreshing changes in camera angles and flexible visual strategies. When Shields goes to China for a pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, “T-Rex” (the title comes from her nickname) picks up adrenaline after the grimness of Flint. In London, for the Olympics, there are more cameras at work adding heightened drama and gloss.
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It’s the aftermath of the gold-medal win that proves most compelling. Shields discovers being an African-American female boxer with some swagger does not draw endorsements. Tensions rise between her and Crutchfield. There’s even a scene where Shields accompanies her mother in paying a past-due water bill — in Flint.
“T-Rex” is ultimately about a remarkable (and likable) young person finding her personal power despite pressure from all sides.