Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  • Time: 132 min
  • Genre: Drama | Sport
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman


Maggie Fitzgerald, a poor thirty-one year old waitress from the very lower classes and with a dysfunctional loser family, decides to make a difference through boxing. She convinces the experienced hardened boxing trainer Frankie Dunn to coach her and be her manager, with the support of his old partner Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, who sees her potential as a boxer. Frankie has a problematical relationship with his daughter, and practically adopts Maggie along her career.

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  • While sports movies have never been a major genre, boxing movies have probably accounted for more than half of all sports movies ever made. It must just be something about the idea of boxing basically being an organised punch-up, or maybe the scope for philosophising about the spectacle of violence, that has rendered it the stuff of drama.

    But conversely to the usual male pride arena of the typical boxing picture, Million Dollar Baby sees Clint Eastwood settling into a father-daughter dynamic as an ageing trainer with his protégé Hilary Swank. Eastwood’s acting has improved as he’s aged. He’s become less active, so his whole persona has receded back into his face. All his past roles are written there in that tortured visage, a former tough guy trapped in this old man’s body, facing difficulty and failure for the first time. Swank gives a deceptively quiet performance for someone playing a boxer. What she’s doing is matching Eastwood’s steely, laconic demeanour, albeit with a good deal of youthful optimism. The rapport between the two of them seems completely natural.

    All boxing matches look more or less alike, but ways of shooting them have differed from one movie to the next. Martin Scorsese’s direction in Raging Bull was the much-lauded camera-in-the-ring approach. Eastwood’s camera on the other hand is often prowling around the edge -the manager’s position – the ropes half obscuring the screen. Throughout the movie there seems to be an emphasis on low ceilings, dark corners, and long, barren hallways. It’s a seedy, gritty world these characters inhabit, a world with few exits.

    For all its modernity and plot twists Million Dollar Baby fits a well-worn mould. Most of the great boxing movies are about failure of sorts, and perhaps victory of other sorts. And there’s no shame in its sticking to the pattern; it’s what makes good boxing movies good. Million Dollar Baby is part of a cinematic tradition, and a worthy heir to its predecessors.

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