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MILLION DOLLAR BABY is worth it… DVD review by SEBASTIAN

Posted on February 12th, 2009
Posted on February 12th, 2009


Million Dollar Baby(2004)***** (DVD) Review by SEBASTIAN

Multiple award winner, and seasoned actor Clint Eastwood sometimes fails to deliver as well as he is capable of (the overrated “Mystic River”, Space Cowboys, Bronco Billy, etc.) but “Million Dollar Baby” is by far his best film since the overlooked gem “Perfect World”. It resonates with the kind of wisdom and emotion only the most talented of storytellers possess. Despite sometimes making hum-drum fare, Eastwood is definitely a master storyteller. As many have pointed out, he is a living legend, and personally my favorite actor from his era.

In “Million Dollar Baby”, Eastwood portrays aging boxing trainer Frankie Dunn. From the beginning we can see that this character carries an incredible burden somewhere deep inside of him. We find out that he has an estranged daughter that he longs to reconnect with. He writes her letters, but they all come back “return to sender”. All of a sudden, into his life steps tough and fiercely independent Maggie Fitzgerald (Oscar-winning Hillary Swank), a struggling waitress who’s now asking Frankie to train her to fight. Problem is that Frank “doesn’t train girls”. This doesn’t seem to faze Maggie, as she sets out to prove her worth to him. This tug of war between these iron-willed people sets to rolling a mesmerizing relationship between two people whose commitment to their profession knows no bounds.

Helping him manage his gym is old buddy Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) , whom Frankie once managed as a boxer. The two make quite a pair, helping each other through life’s many obstacles. Their charisma is undeniable; Freeman and Eastwood play off each other so naturally, you might think they’d been friends all of their lives. The dialogue is gritty and believable and the lines just flow from the actors’ mouths. The pacing is all but perfect.

The gym they run is named “The Hit Pit”, and it seems an appropriate title, seeing how much physical and mental anguish the characters endure behind these walls. Into this environment Maggie throws herself headlong, determined to show Frankie that she has the guts to never give up. Finally, with a bit of encouraging from Eddie, he decides to train her.

From here the movie is a steam-roller, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen until these characters have made their anguished choices and fought their impossible fights. It’s very sincere in its depiction of boxing and the hard people who live in that world. You can’t believe how moving this film is. It doesn’t back down ever (just like its protagonists) and as a result its message will echo in your mind for some time. In the end the film is devastating to the viewer, but remember to think about who these people are, and what makes them do what they feel they must. We can all relate to being in that corner and getting caught with a flurry of blows so intense that we feel we won’t survive them. Who can’t identify with being between a rock and a hard place in life? This film presents scenarios that will challenge what you think, and make you question things that don’t have definitive answers. As in much of great literature, the plot isn’t the most important feature here, rather the characters, and the decisions they make.

Eastwood is known for his brilliant character work, and this film is an excellent example of this, perhaps his best to date.

-Sebastian

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