Million Dollar Baby

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material and language.
Starring:Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman
Directed By:Clint Eastwood

Final Grade:

One of the joys of being a film critic and having free passes is getting the chance to watch the good and the bad films. After viewing so many bad films each year it makes you appreciate some of the great ones that come out in late November and December. No matter how many bad movies you watch earlier in the year, it’s nice to know that the years goes out with a bang and as a critic you get to see some of the best performances during the dreary winter months.

Hollywood Icon Clint Eastwood bring us Million Dollar Baby this year as he once again enters the Oscar race in multiple categories. Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, Eastwood tells the tale of Maggie Fitzgerald, an aging female boxer (played by Hillary Swank) who won’t take no for an answer. She pesters an aging trainer named Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) and his right hand man Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupis (Morgan Freeman) to train her to become the next women’s boxing champion. Though reluctant at first, Frankie finally takes Maggie up on her offer. As the two become learn how to cope with each others pigheaded natures each of them learn a lot about themselves and the inner demons that affect their everyday lives.

I waited and waited for this film and even refused to do my year end best list for this film. And now that I have, all I can say is I am glad I did. Eastwood delivers another knockout blow with Million Dollar Baby, only one year after giving us the fantastic Mystic River. Eastwood has a knack for finding great scripts and bringing them to life in a way that makes you care about the characters, and actually makes you feel like an actual part of the film. His directorial style focuses more on well-crafted and great dialogue and wonderfully crafted cinematic work. The Camera work is amazing at times and may be quite easily the best cinematography I have seen this year. Eastwood once again sticks to his “gray tinted” grainy tone and uses great uses of light and shadowing to help bring the characters to life.

Although the film is cinematically great, the film also packs a punch with great acting. Eastwood is spot on, and even though he is 70 years old, the Hollywood Legend shows us that even though his character can be a man of few words, he can still say so much without saying much at all. Eastwood’s grizzled, gruff character mixed with a great performance by Hillary Swank (who plays White Trash to a near perfection) make this story work. But the real star of the show is Morgan Freeman, who narrates the film as well as has some great scenes with Clint Eastwood.

The film is well written with enough drama to make the story believable, and enough comedic elements to give the audience a good chuckle. While reflecting back on some of the best parts of the film, a scene involving Eastwood pestering a preacher about the Holy Trinity and Morgan Freeman and Eastwood debating holes in Freeman’s Socks. Mix that in with a boxer who has the heart of a champion, but the talent of a loser named “Danger” and you have enough comedy to make the film feel not nearly as heavy as it could be.

Although many have heard the twist of the film, I will not give it away in my review. There is a certain plot point that drives the film in a whole new direction. It tackles a touchy subject in a great way. It feels a little heavy throughout the second half but all in all it is still great.

If I had to make any real solid complaints about Million Dollar Baby, my main complaint would be a little bit of a length issue. It really feels to drag a little bit late in the second half, but I think the film wouldn’t have the same effect if scenes had been cut. I also found Maggie’s white trash family a little too white trashy. They seemed like a family that the producers of COPS would love to meet, and was so over the top I felt as though they were not even believable. Eastwood made sure that they covered every cliché in the White Trash Dictionary right down to the cheating on welfare, the son in prison and dirty scummy trailer park.

All in all like I said before the performances are great, the cinematography is wonderful, and the directing is outstanding. Eastwood scores again with Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood never really ceases to amaze me. As I look back on Million Dollar Baby there is a lot to digest after seeing this flick; it is a great story. While I truly enjoyed this film I feel as though I should really like it more than I actually did. Something kept me from thinking this film is perfect, but no matter how long I have been thinking about it, I can’t put a finger on it. But none the less, This is one of the best films this year. Get out to theaters and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

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