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A Reel View: Million Dollar Baby

A Reel View
Million Dollar Baby
by James M. Gullard

As he ages, Clint Eastwood seems to be gaining an understanding of what it takes to make a perfect film. He has come very far since his "Dirty Harry" days, but the intensity that has made him an icon is still present, appearing as much in his style of directing as in his acting. This was first apparent in his 1992 Academy Award winning masterpiece "Unforgiven" and was most recently displayed in his even more powerful "Million Dollar Baby."
The film begins as professional trainer and cut-man Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) meets hopeful young fighter Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank). She asks him if he could help her with her career by training her. She tells him that many people think she's pretty tough, but Frankie turns her down, informing her of his motto: "tough ain't enough."
Frankie owns a gym where he and his friend Scrap (Morgan Freeman) spend their time. Scrap, a half-blind former boxer, cleans the place and deals with most of the customers, including Frankie's main fighter Big Willy (Mike Colter) and eventually Maggie. Frankie wants Maggie to leave, but once he finds out that she has paid six months in advance, he simply tells Scrap not to encourage her.
Maggie continues to hang out at the gym, despite not even knowing how to properly use a punching bag. Against Frankie's wishes, Scrap begins to show Maggie the basics to boxing. Maggie shows promise, yet Frankie still refuses to train her. However, he changes his mind when Willy decides that it is time that he and Frankie part ways.
Maggie tries desperately to please her trainer. When he books her for a fight, she knocks out her opponent in the first round, a move that becomes her trademark. Frankie has trouble booking fights for her, seeing as no other manager wants to have their fighter humiliated in a matter of seconds. Frankie knows that he has to start booking Maggie better fights, although his newfound protection for her tells him that it may be the worst thing he could possibly do.
Aside from Eastwood's masterful direction, his performance is quite possibly the best of his career. He plays Frankie with his usual "tough guy" persona, yet he gives him an emotional side, something that Eastwood is not exactly known for doing. Hilary Swank (who scored her second Academy Award for the role) is equally amazing, complementing Eastwood's toughness with her na„ve Southern spirit. Morgan Freeman (who is finally an Oscar winner thanks to the film) is also great to watch, especially when he proves that being half-blind and aging cannot overshadow his boxing talents.
"Million Dollar Baby" is not so much a boxing movie as it is a movie about the relationship between a boxer and those she grows close to. Voted as the Best Picture of the year by at Academy Awards, Clint Eastwood's modern masterpiece in character study truly is, and forgive the pun, a knockout.
"Million Dollar Baby" will be released on DVD on July 12th.

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