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Starring: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 4 / 5
It has been remarked that Clint Eastwood the director keeps getting better with age, as Million Dollar Baby surely proves. What must not be overlooked, however, is that Clint Eastwood the actor is still honing his skills as well. In fact, as his Best Actor Oscar nomination for his latest work proves, he may be at the top of his game. Duplicating his Best Director-Best Actor twin bill from twelve years earlier, Eastwood has certainly been recognized for his work in Million Dollar Baby, but the efforts of his two chief co-stars – Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman – are just as vital to making the film what it is – one of the best films of 2004. A powerful tale of one woman’s dreams and one man’s personal demons, Million Dollar Baby is the sort of film for which awards were made.
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a gruff gym owner who cannot escape his own feelings of guilt. Whether it be over his relationship with his estranged daughter or due to decisions he has made ringside, the boxing trainer is forever trapped in the past. Barely making ends meet in his rundown gym, Frankie is approached by a would-be boxer looking for a chance. Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) may not have much – she has been waiting tables for nearly twenty years with little to show for it – but she believes in herself. What she needs, however, is a trainer, and she has determined that Frankie is that man. The crabby, old man has a policy against training “girls,” but, with the assistance of retired boxer Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), Maggie eventually convinces Frankie to teach her about the sweet science.
Clint Eastwood has often been lauded as a director for the faith he shows in his actors and his minimalist approach to directing. He believes in bringing his films in on time and under budget, with a level of quality that speaks for itself. His directing style is quite evident in Million Dollar Baby, as his methodical, deliberate pacing allows us deeper insight into his three complex characters. As we learn more and more about Frankie Dunn, we begin to understand what drives him and what, at the same time, keeps him closed off from the world. Even as Frankie begins to open himself up as the film progresses, he remains true to the character we have come to know. Maggie Fitzgerald gradually evolves from a poor, redneck girl looking for a chance to a woman with an indomitable will, one just looking to make the most of her chance.
Million Dollar Baby features a trio of fine acting performances, with each justly heralded with an Oscar nomination from the Academy. Clint Eastwood may have delivered more memorable roles – The Man With No Name and Dirty Harry spring to mind – but his turn as Frankie Dunn is as powerful as any he has done since Unforgiven. Hilary Swank continues to prove that her Oscar victory for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry was not an aberration, standing toe to toe with a pair of screen icons. Morgan Freeman slips ably into a role he has played many times before, that of the wise sage offering the advice of his many years. Together they allow Million Dollar Baby, a movie that tackles some very real themes and pulls no punches, to leave a lasting impression.
|Hilary Swank..........||Maggie Fitzgerald|
|Clint Eastwood..........||Frankie Dunn|
|Morgan Freeman..........||Eddie Dupris|
Certification: Rated PG-13 for violence.
Running Time: 137 minutes.
Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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