Million Dollar Baby
During his glory days as an action hero, I was never a huge Clint Eastwood
fan. Over the last couple of decades, though, he has completely
reinvented himself, becoming not only an impressively subtle actor but also
one of the most assured and daring movie directors working.
recent interview, Eastwood acknowledged that when selling his longtime film
studio on his latest project, Million Dollar Baby, that he told the
executives the film probably would not be a huge box office success, but it
would be a movie that the studio would be proud to be affiliated with.
fact that Eastwood places artistic integrity above the almighty dollar shows
that he is a man of standards and taste. The fact that he could sell
it in the bottom-line world of Hollywood is testimony to his status as a
living legend. The fact that Million Dollar Baby will probably
exceed his expectation, (as Eastwood's last film Mystic River did, as
well) and not only become a critical favorite but also a likely make a
reasonable dent in the box office, is a reason for fans of quality cinema to
feel heartened. Eastwood's directing style is rather like his acting
-- quiet, restrained, measured and capable of delivering quite a wallop.
Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, an aging boxing trainer and gym owner who has
been on the precipice of hitting the big time with his boxers many times,
but who has never made it to the top. Frankie is a deeply conflicted
man, he loves what he does and yet he hates how it has disturbed his life.
He is long estranged from his daughter, writing her weekly trying to mend
the rift but receiving every last envelope back with "return to sender"
printed on it.
bought the gym as an attempt for stability, but it has been losing him money
ever since. Frankie isn't a businessman though, he couldn't give it up
anyway because he loves the action, though is dollar-conscious enough that
he will complain long and hard if someone buys the "expensive" bleach rather
than getting the generic brand.
Running the place is Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman), a former
boxer who was one of Frankie's first gigs as corner man. Frankie has
always felt somewhat guilty about a fight where he was Scrap-Iron's cut man
and could not talk the badly injured fighter into giving up, eventually
costing Dupris one of his eyes. So Frankie keeps him in a job and lets
him live in a small apartment in the gym.
night at a fight, Frankie is approached by a female boxer named Maggie
Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) who wants him to be his trainer. Frankie
tells her that he doesn't manage girls, but she joins the gym and keeps
asking him. Maggie is a deep country girl who has always seen herself
as white trash, but she sees the ring as a way out of the trailer park
lifestyle of her family. She has a lot of raw talent but is completely
green to the rules of the sport. Eddie gives her some pointers and
technical tips, but Frankie is still resistant to her.
Frankie's latest protégée and best shot at the championship in years leaves
him for a more connected manager, Frankie has finally had enough heartbreak
in his career. He agrees to train Maggie as long as she will do
whatever he tells her and not question. Maggie agrees, but she is too
intelligent, inquisitive and independent to live up to her deal. It
doesn't matter, though, the working relationship deepens into a stronger
bond, first they become friends. Quickly Maggie becomes like the
daughter that Frankie lost so long ago, and the coach in turn reminds Maggie
of her late father.
Working together, Maggie polishes her natural talents and becomes a
formidable fighter, quickly getting more and more fights and rising up the
ranks of the women's boxing world. Frankie and Maggie travel the
world, hearing the cheers and making more money than either believed
possible. Maggie eventually is offered a shot at the championship.
when you think you have the movie figured out, the script suddenly shocks
you with a surprise right jab that completely undoes everything that you
thought the film was leading up to. It becomes something deeper, something
darker, something more human and tragic than just another sports movie.
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Posted: January 29, 2005.