Million Dollar Baby

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/01/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Eastwood’s follow-up to Mystic River is a moving, impressively directed drama with strong performances from its three leads. Expect Oscar nominations aplenty.

Clint Eastwood is clearly on something of a roll at the moment, as Million Dollar Baby is his second film in as many years to be touted for Oscar glory. The film is ostensibly about boxing (which is appropriate for a one-two punch like that), although it’s also about redemption, relationships and The Human Spirit and other Academy-friendly things like that.

Avoid Spoilers…

To that end, if you’ve decided that you want to see it, you’d be well advised to avoid reading reviews and start humming with your eyes closed whenever the trailers come on, because otherwise you might find out more than you want to, which would ruin the main impact of the film.

Million Dollar Baby is adapted from a short story in the collection Rope Burns, by ex-“cut man” F.X. Toole. Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, an ageing gym owner and boxing manager, whose overwhelming desire to protect his fighters has meant that they always leave him for other managers and go on to fame and fortune without him. The film is narrated by Frankie’s best friend, Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman), a one-eyed ex-boxer who looks after the gym and who knows that Frankie has never forgiven himself for becoming estranged from his daughter many years ago.

When 31 year old Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) shows up at the gym and asks Frankie to train her, he initially refuses, saying she’s too old and that he doesn’t train women. However, the combination of Maggie’s sheer determination and Scrap’s subtle persuasion gradually win Frankie over and he gets a long-overdue shot at redemption, thanks to their surrogate father-daughter relationship.

Eastwood Magnificent Despite Gaelic Poetry

The acting is superb. Eastwood gives one of his best performances as Frankie, even if the fact that he’s frequently seen reading Gaelic poetry stretches credulity a little. Swank is both convincing and heart-breaking in a role that is guaranteed to net her another Oscar nomination. As for Morgan Freeman, he’s as wonderful as ever and it’s a treat to see him reunited onscreen with Eastwood – their constant bickering is one of the film’s many highlights.

The relationships between the three leads are so strong that the film occasionally feels like a three-hander, but there’s good support from Jay Baruchel (from TV’s little-seen Undeclared) as none-too-bright gym regular “Danger” Barch, Margo Martindale as Maggie’s pure white trash mother and Brian O’Byrne as Frankie’s exasperated priest. The script is extremely good too, brimming with witty lines and cleverly justifying the clichés of the voiceover narration.

The fight scenes are well-handled and Eastwood includes several nice touches, such as the way Maggie practically gallops into every fight, or the smile on Frankie’s face when she wins her first match. The film also looks fantastic, thanks to Eastwood’s frequent collaborator, cinematographer Tom Stern.

In short, this is an enjoyable, moving drama that’s fully deserving of its impending Oscar nominations. Let’s hope Eastwood’s knockout winning streak continues.

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Content updated: 18/01/2020 08:33

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