Million Dollar Baby is not your everyday sports/boxing movie. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran coach in Los Angeles who trains professional boxers. When Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) arrives in Frankie’s gym to seek training from him, he is reluctant to train the young woman due to his distaste for training female boxers. However eventually he decides to train her and the two form an unbreakable and unique bond that faces triumphs and pitfalls.
This was a pretty great movie. There’s no denying it. From its surface, Million Dollar Baby is a pretty conventional underdog sports story that incorporates a female boxer who is at a low point in her life and a professional trainer who is haunted by his past. The first two acts of Million Dollar Baby follow much of the same trajectory like other movies of this genre such as The Sandlot, Warrior and The Karate Kid. We see a lot of those montages of training sequences, a few fights and a few moments of bonding between trainer and fighter i.e Eastwood and Swank. I found the fight choreography of this film to be average at best. I felt that the camera focused more on the audience and their reactions and not the fighters and there was barely any intense or dramatic music to hype up any of the fights.
But my takeaway from Million Dollar Baby is that this movie is not about the fights. Its about giving a person who’s down on his/her luck a shot. A shot to achieve greatness. Hillary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald delivers an oscar worthy performance. She plays an optimistic working class girl who, despite her age and lack of experience, has the willpower and courage to put her body and health at risk to pursue a career in boxing. Her physical and mental transformation is well noted. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, as a veteran boxing coach also does a solid job. He is calculated and not a risk taker in his approach to training boxers. The dynamic between Eastwood and Swank was like that of father and daughter.
Morgan Freeman as Eddie Dupris also plays a very understated role. He delivers the monologue of this movie in a rich and buttery voice that will keep you in tune with what’s happening on screen. As a director, Clint Eastwood pushes the monologue to new heights. It isn’t very evident at first, but towards the end the monologue becomes very important because it is used to deliver a message to a particular character. Let me now talk about the third act of this film. My god. It took a completely different direction to what I was expecting. Let me put it this way. The first two acts of Million Dollar Baby are a collection of enthralling and invigorating sequences of boxing and classic sports drama. But the third act is a sob fest, and I mean this in a very positive way. Watching the third act of Million Dollar Baby is like taking a 1,2 punch to the gut. Its painful and brings you down. We learn so much about the central two characters and the sacrifices they’re willing to make for one another.
Overall, I loved this film. Even though I found the fight choreography to be mediocre, Million Dollar Baby is not about the fights. Its about the characters and the journey they take together. This film is stacked with great performances from Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman. In addition it makes you think that you’re watching a by the numbers sports film, but takes a completely different turn in its final act and has one of the most saddest and gut wrenching endings to a movie that I have seen in a while.