Determined female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) thinks she
has the heart to be a world champion but she needs a trainer. Frankie Dunn
(Eastwood) has just lost his prizefighter to another manager and he thinks
he might never get the chance to take someone to a title fight. When friend
Eddie 'Scrap-Iron' Dupris (Freeman) introduces him to Maggie. He reluctantly
takes her on and some realises that she might have real potential.
While some may argue that critics have to like the veteran
actor/director's movies as a matter of course and this could be just another
film made to win awards but what Eastwood has produced here is a great sports
movie that also highlights the human spirit. Interest in female boxing is
increasing and this film shows that the dedication and determination is
just as strong, whatever the gender.
What drives the movie is the performances of Clint Eastwood
and Hillary Swank as Frankie and Maggie. Here are two people driven by their
love of boxing but it also replaces the things that are missing in their
lives. For Frankie, he uses it to forget about his estranged daughter who
refuses to have contact with him. For Maggie boxing is a way of escaping
the trappings of her self centred family and that she has grown up without
a father. Now the pair has a common purpose with the sport but they also
fill each other's voids, making an unbreakable bond. It is this relationship
between the characters that drives the film and makes it so watchable. It
is easy to forget what a great actor Clint Eastwood is. He might be more
know for his disgruntled hero roles and also his talents behind the camera
in his later years but this is a true return to form for the veteran. Frankie
is a hard-nosed, opinionated trainer who, against his better judgement,
decides to take Maggie on. Clint plays the role superbly, making the character
very believeable and real. The same can be said about Hilary Swank. Since
winning the Oscar for 'Boys Don't Cry' in 1999, people have been waiting
for her to live up to the hype and with Maggie Fitzgerald she finally achieves
this. Gaining weight and packing on the muscle, Swank transforms herself
into a contender and a very believeable one at that. This is a role that
really showcases her talents to the full as she creates a genuinely nice
character that you really want to succeed.
With the film mainly about the two main characters and their
relationship, the supporting cast don't get as much screen time. Morgan
Freeman is as good as ever as Eddie 'Scrap-Iron' Dupris and the narrator
of the piece. This is the only other character that gets any real development
and he gets his chance to shine as he plays opposite Clint Eastwood. His
voice over is too reminiscent of 'The Shawshank Redemption' however and
does get slightly annoying until you find out the reasons behind it. The
other characters don't really get much of a look in with only Jay Baruchel
as Danger having any real development.
The boxing scenes are very well choreographed and realistic,
never too over the top and not afraid to show the bloodiness of the sport.
Clint handles the action extremely well, using multiple angles and taking
you into the action, giving the film more of a 'Raging Bull' feel than a
'Rocky'. Hilary Swank excels in the ring and you never doubt her ability
as a boxer, adding even more realism to the film.
Just as you are getting into the swing of the film a dramatic
turn of events occurs and pushes the movie into a completely new direction.
As first you may think this is a desperate attempt to win those golden statues
but after a while you become totally engrossed again. Now the subject matter
asks some serious questions about friendship, loyalty and love changing
the film from a sports movie to a social drama. As you'd expect Eastwood
and Swank rise to the task and provide some genuinely emotional cinema that
could have you reaching for the tissues.
'Million Dollar Baby' is one of Clint Eastwood's best films,
both in front and behind the camera. Both his and Hilary Swank's performances
are first rate and it has a story that will have you cheering and crying.
'Born To Fight': an in-depth
look at women in the ring
'Producer's Round 15': producers Al Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg and Paul Haggis
tell the story of how the book by F.X. Toole "Rope Burns" made it to the
'James Lipton Takes On Three': in-depth interviews with director Clint
Eastwood and stars Morgan Freeman & Hilary Swank the day after the Oscars
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