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January 2005

By Wilson Morales
Million Dollar Baby

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Albert S. Ruddy, Clint Eastwood, and Paul Haggis
Screenwriter: Paul Haggis, based on the book, Rope Burns, by F.X Toole
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Anthony Mackie, Jay Baruchel, Christina Cox, Kimberly Estrada

Screened at Loews Lincoln Square, NYC


For as many years that Clint Eastwood has been in this business, he has always had the respect of his peers. After all, not only did co-star with them in some films, but he has also directed them as well. Yet, he has never been given an accolade for his acting abilities. Sure, he won an Oscar for directing "Unforgiven", but he, along with Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert Redford, and Warren Beatty, are among the few actors who have won directing awards, but no Oscars for acting. Well, that might change this year. In directing what may be the best film of the year, Eastwood has also given himself the best role and performance of his career. "Million Dollar Baby" delivers on so many levels that it is a credit, for once, that the commercials doesn't give you a synopsis of what the entire film is. Not only is Eastwood amazing in his role, but Hilary also gives the best performance since she won the Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry". Believe me folks; this is no female version of "Rocky". It's much more than that, for Eastwood, Swank, and Morgan Freeman each give out a dose of great acting in this powerful and moving film.

Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) is a boxing trainer who knows what it takes to be a good fighter and a champion, but he lets opportunity after opportunity go by for his best fighters, including his current one, Big Willie Little (Colter). Frankie is a spiritual man. He goes to church every day and yearns for a returned letter from his estranged daughter. When Big Willie leaves Frankie and signs with another trainer, Frankie's at a loss for words, especially when Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris (Freeman), a former fighter who now cleans the gym for Frankie, reminds him that it's fault that Big Willie. Willie was ready for a title match but Frankie wouldn't sign any deals. In the meantime, a 33 year old female, Maggie Fitzgerald, who had Frankie to train her, starts training in his gym using old equipment. Frankie's initially response was "I don't train girls", but reluctantly he softens up and shows her the ropes. Maggie is a poor white trash who eats the scraps of her patrons' tables from her waitressing gig to survive. With Frankie's help, Maggie sees a chance of making something out of herself, and Frankie sees an opportunity to finally go for a title match for he now has a contender.

Just when you thought this was an ordinary boxing film, guess again? "Million Dollar Baby" offers much more in terms of plot that it wouldn't be right if I mentioned what else went on. Swank is just flat-out incredible. Since she won her award years ago, she hasn't lived up to her potential. She's received good roles but neither of them has taken her to new depths. With this role, she brings emotion, compassion, and strength. In some ways, Freeman's role is similar to the role he played in "The Shawshank Redemption". It's flawless. As always, he serves as the voice of reason and the glue between the past and present. One can see the bond that's developed between Frankie and Maggie, Frankie and Eddie, and Eddie and Maggie, and it's the strength of that bond takes this film from being an ordinary boxing or sports film. The story is compelling and suspenseful. Each scene is more engaging than next one. The secondary characters played Colter, Mackie, and Baruchel adds to the chemistry of the film for their characters and the roles are pivotal what happens to the three leads. Million Dollar Baby is certainly the best of this year. The actors, the story, and the direction are brilliant. After "Mystic River", Eastwood is still on cruise control and delivering top notch performances and films.