Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie
The majority of Hollywood boxing movies follow the same formula: a rookie or retired boxer wants to get (back) in the ring, they train with a coach (insert famous actor), challenge for the title and win. Million Dollar Baby may have won 4 Academy Awards for going against this tradition. Clint Eastwood directs and stars as the coach who takes Hilary Swank under his wing despite her being in her thirties and being a woman. Soon she develops into a great boxer, knocking out all of her opponents in the first round, and gets a shot at the title. Swank is winning the fight until the reigning champion sucker punches her which results in Swank becoming a quadriplegic. The film instantly changes from the traditional sports film into a moving drama as Eastwood and Swank struggle to adapt to the punch that boxing has thrown them.
In the supporting roles are Jay Baruchel and Morgan Freeman. Freeman plays the retired boxer turned gym custodian who convinces Eastwood to take a chance on Swank. The relationship between Eastwood’s and Freeman’s characters is strained through the film as a result of Freeman losing sight in one of his eyes during his 109th and final fight which Eastwood blames himself for. This is the only reason why Baruchel is in the film. His character is an inexperienced yet hopeful wannabe boxer that provides comic support and gets beater up by a fellow gym goer (Anthony Mackie). Enter Freeman to the rescue, knocking out Mackie which sees him secure his 110th victory, something he had been looking for since his retirement.
There’s a sub-plot which is never fully explained regarding Eastwood going to church everyday to annoy the reverend and him sending letters to his estranged daughter which are always returned. The only possible explanation to this would be that he views training Swank as a way of making amends for his past sins. Freeman spends the whole film as a narrator which is eventually revealed to be him writing a letter explaining the type of man that Eastwood is. Conveniently the narration helps push the film along in slow periods and to explain what is going on.
The leading characters are so different which is why this film works. Eastwood, as is becoming the norm, is a grouchy old man that gets annoyed by everything and Swank is the fresh-faced woman that the audience can root for. The development of their relationship hold the film together which is why the ending is so saddening and unexpected.
Million Dollar Baby is a fresh take on a familiarly hashed out story that will appeal to everyone. From its fight scenes to its bonding of a surrogate dysfunctional family, this film will always remain a classic and leave all audiences feeling pensive come the end.