Review: Million Dollar Baby

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  December 15, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

The world of boxing has been analyzed to death by the motion picture industry. Then why do we keep going back to the ring?

Because when magic happens in the ring, we end up with instant classics like Rocky, Billy Elliot, When We Were Kings, and the immortal The Champ.

For director Clint Eastwood, he has found a new way to channel the world of boxing like never before. Just when you thought there was no new ground, a director re-invents the wheel.

Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby stars Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald, a lost white-trash waitress who survives by eating the scraps left by her patrons. Maggie only has one dream, and she begs boxing trainer and manager Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) to train her to be the best she can be. There is only one problem " he doesn't train girls.

Stubborn and persistent, Maggie trains her little heart out in Dunn's gym and begins to earn the admiration of Dunn's conscience and friend, Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris (Morgan Freeman), who happens to be a retired boxer. Eventually Maggie and Dupris wear down Dunn, and Maggie becomes Dunn's boxer.

Maggie becomes unstoppable and changes Dunn's outlook on the sport. What does fate have in store for these inter-linked souls? How can the sport of boxing change in a split second?

What is brilliant about Million Dollar Baby is that everything can change in a split second and you may not even realize it.

Then there are the performances of Eastwood, Freeman, and Swank. Eastwood plays the grizzled, unflinching Dunn to perfection, much like a lot of the characters he has done throughout his career. Freeman hasn't been this powerful in such a long time. It truly is magic when you get these two veterans together on screen. It was magic in 1992's Unforgiven and this film proves lightning does strike twice.

Then there is Hilary Swank. She was born to play this role and with every punch and a slur of the word "boss" she is indeed amazing. In 2000's Girlfight, Michelle Rodriguez starred in one of the first motion pictures that focuses on the world of female boxing. Well, Eastwood took that concept, gave it incredible depth, and hit it out the park with this film.

Another person who should be recognized is screenwriter Paul Haggis, who adapted the book "Rope Burns" for this film. Haggis is fondly remembered as the creator of the critically-acclaimed television dramas, Due South and EZ Streets. Haggis delivers so many clever and quiet scenes that flesh out so much in each of the characters in the film. Haggis is famous for delivering intricate relationships and heavy-layered dialogue. This film not only shows that, but also proves that Haggis could become one of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters. Can't wait to see what he does next.

Million Dollar Baby is a pugilist film like no other and deserves to be honored as one of the year's best. (5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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