When a film comes as heavily freighted with hype as this one, one almost hopes to report that the movie can be taken down a few pegs. Not this time. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ truly is a heartbreaking piece of art.
There’s a theory that in the winter of his career Eastwood is atoning for his earlier films by critically examining the mythos of violence with which he used to titillate us. Since ‘The Unforgiven’, his intent has been to show the human costs of violence. Here he finds a subject, the world of boxing, which evidences that humans thrill to carnage. However, this sure ain’t “Rocky”.
Eastwood plays a trainer (a metaphor for a director) and boxing gym owner who agrees to train an eager “poor white trash” female fighter (Hillary Swank) despite his reluctance to work with a woman. At first Eastwood’s character comes perilously close to cliché: the grizzled old boxing trainer with a heart of gold underneath the gruff exterior. But as the film progresses his performance deepens to become as powerful and moving as any screen performance I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of movies). Swank is perfectly cast as the woman who, in her way, always remains a fighter. Morgan Freeman plays Eastwood’s longtime friend, an ex-fighter who works as the gym’s custodian.
- Jan 13, 2005
You may think you know where the film is going, and for a time you’d be right, but trust me on this: you don’t know where it’ll end up. Strenuously recommended.