"Oh god, not another boxing movie" the world cried when Million Dollar Baby
was first chucked back and forth on the Hollywood
executives' tables. But then Mystic River
happened, and six Academy Award
nominations (two of which it actually won) later, the worlds' eyes are back on Clint Eastwood
Million Dollar Baby is a film released in 2004, and is the story of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a 31 year old waitress who wants to become a professional boxer. She goes to Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), one of the best boxing coaches in the world. Dunn refuses to take her on, but eventually changes his mind - helped by the persuative powers of Dunn's boxing gym caretaker, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman).
The story that develops is rather obvious at first - best boxing coach refuses to take on a girl boxer, but changes his mind, then changes his mind again... and again. They grow to like each other, however, and the movie builds. Fitzgerald becomes a better and better boxer, with a reputation for knocking out her opponents in the very first round of the match.
The movie is beautiful. Deep blues. Deep greens. Stark contrasts. Nice motion shots. The characters are strong and believable, but never in such a way that you realise what the movie has in store until it is upon you. The story-line itself is slow-paced but well constructed for the first half of the film. And the second part of the film, for that matter, but in an entirely different way...
The narration is slow-paced, insightful and philosophical, but staying firmly on the safe side of pretentious. The acting is thoroughly believable - Hilary Swank plays one of the most convincing characters seen on the silver screen in a long time - beating even her already ground-breaking performance from the 1999 cult classic Boys Don't Cry.
The true strokes of genius of Million Dollar Baby cannot be touched upon without spoiling the film, which would be cruel to any movie fan. Suffice to say that the movie is controversial, beautiful and thought-provoking in a way that most stories - let alone Hollywood-fueled cinema - fail to.
Warmly recommended indeed, if you are enough of a movie fan to let the film slowly take you by the hand and lead you along its curvy, deliberate path, rather than being chased up a highway, Mad Max style.