Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Premise: An aged boxing trainer (Clint Eastwood) takes a hungry female boxer (Hillary Swank) under his wing.
What Works: This is a very touching story that evens its high emotions with healthy doses of humor. Eastwood and Swank work terrifically together. Morgan Freeman plays Eastwood’s confidant and friend and delivers a classic, subtle performance. The boxing scenes have been given a brutal and realistic treatment that stands up with the fight scenes of Raging Bull. The film balances this brutality with a subtle tenderness that never gets unnecessarily sentimental.
What Doesn’t: The film does rely on a lot of the clichés of the boxing genre, including training and fight montages and minor characters that are stock boxing types. The major roles are cast to type, with Eastwood as the loner mourning over a regretful past, Swank as the androgynous fighter, and Freeman as the wise old man. However, the depths of the characterization are so good that one forgets about this.
Bottom Line: This is Eastwood’s best film since Unforgiven. Definitely one for fans of boxing, Eastwood, and Swank, but Million Dollar Baby transcends these appeals in its artful and humane approach.
Episode: #37 (January 30, 2005)