Million Dollar Baby

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Million Dollar Baby
Review (7/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a cranky, wrinkly old boxing trainer who owns a run-down gym in Los Angeles. Dunn is estranged from his family, reads poetry and regularly attends church. He runs the gym with one of his former fighters named Scrap (Morgan Freeman) who received shot at the title with Frankie as his trainer. Scrap is now blind in one eye and lives at the gym. Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is a young girl from southwest Missouri who happens upon Frankie's gym and trains there night and day in hopes of becoming a champion boxer to escape her rather frugal lifestyle. As Scrap so bluntly points out, Maggie grew up knowing one thing - she is trash. Frankie refuses to have anything to do with Maggie because she is a "girly", but her persistance, effort and honesty finally pays off when Frankie finally agrees to take her under his wing and try to take her to the top of the boxing world.

Million Dollar Baby is another film directed by Clint Eastwood that is sure to get some serious Oscar consideration when that time comes. I'm not sure yet if it is his best work but it certainly is a fine piece of filmmaking and is without a doubt his darkest piece of work and that is pretty damn dark coming from the man who brought us Mystic River. There is almost nothing about Million Dollar Baby that will put a smile on your face. All three main characters are tragic. The story is tragic. Maggie's family life is pathetic. It is not a movie that will put a smile on anyone's face. Sure the movie tricks you into thinking something wonderful is unfolding right before your eyes, but before you know it, you get a punch in the gut and you will be gasping for air. And just as you think you have caught your breath, it will punch you in the face. And I don't know about you, but just as I was recovering from the punch in the face, the movie kicked me in the balls. And that hurts. I think I am still recovering.

Despite the extreme darkness and sadness of Million Dollar Baby, the movie does have some happy moments, that being the powerful performances by the entire cast, highlighted by the outstanding, honest work from Hilary Swank. Her portrayal of Maggie Fitzgerald is perfection. I am certain we will see her name amongst the nominations at Oscar time.

But with that being said, I am still not 100% sure how I felt about Million Dollar Baby. Yes, it is an excellent film, well-acted, well-written, well-directed. But it is just so dark. Maybe too dark. And I didn't find myself getting too emotional during the movie. I was very saddened by how things developed and angry at Maggie's loser family but I didn't feel any intense emotion during the movie and I can assure you that that is what the movie is trying to evoke from us.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny Million Dollar Baby the credit it deserves. It is an outstanding piece of cinema but perhaps not entirely my cup of tea and maybe not a movie for anyone not looking to get beat up by a movie. I would be very surprised if anyone could possibly walk away from Million Dollar Baby with a smile on his or her face after. It's just not that kind of movie.

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