"Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common -we both appreciate living in a country where there's free expression. But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera - I'll kill you. I mean it."
While Clint's days are carrying a .44 caliber pistol are long retired - this 74 year old man is definitely a magnum force to contend with in the motion picture industry. Besides giving his most vulnerable performance ever, Clint Eastwood directs “Million Dollar Baby” which costars Oscar Winner Hilary Swank and the reliable supporting actor Morgan Freeman.
Besides managing a gym, Frankie (Clint Eastwood) is the best-cut doctor in the boxing business. A respected man who is overly protective of his fighters, Frankie nonetheless attends morning mass every morning. Frankie is estranged from his daughter and feels tremendous guilt. Enter Maggie (Swank) a Missouri waitress who exercises in Frankie's gym. Having served as a waitress since the age of 13, Maggie dreams of breaking the cycle of poverty that runs through her trashy family. Egged on by Scrap (Freeman), Frankie reluctantly agrees to train and manage Maggie. As her manager, Frankie endorses his most important rule,
"One must protect yourself at all costs."
Despite her advanced age and lack of experience, Maggie's enthusiasm propels her towards a championship bout.
“Million Dollar Baby” is not a female version of “Rocky.” This is not escapism entertainment, but a universal drama that forces the audience to confront their own modern problems. There are some dark twists plot twists that are reminiscent of “Requiem of a Heavyweight” and “The Set Up” and “A Beautiful Mind.” Revealing more would be a disservice to that rare emotional connection often lacking with modern movies. The screenplay by Paul Haggis is based
on "Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner" by one-time cut man and fight manager Jerry Boyd writing under the pen name of F.X. Toole.
While many of the supporting characters lack depth, it is the three main characters and their interactions that drive the narrative. Eastwood, Swank and Freeman make the most low key scenes of inconsequential dialog interesting. “”Million Dollar Baby” is a performance driven movie and the three actors are at the top of their game. There is a tender scene between Frankie and Maggie. These two lonely characters enjoy each other’s company while eating a good pie at a late night diner.
Serving as both a sidekick and as the film's narrator, Freeman is a delight. A former fighter who lost his eye in the ring, Morgan makes Scrap a tired warrior who his spirit, but not his soul, in the ring. Despite his perpetual poverty, Scrap accepts his dilemma with stoic strength mixed with a genuine love/hate relationship with Eastwood's Frankie. One remarkable scene features a backward conversation about socks with holes in them. This scene is both humorous and human.
Since winning an Oscar for “Boys Don't Cry,” Swank has been involved in many critically a acclaimed, but poor box office performing motion pictures like “Insomnia” and “The Gift.” As Maggie, Swank is simple enthusiasm that lacks the capacity to accept deep pain and suffering. Somehow Swank makes Maggie a believable creature.
Clint Eastwood givens the most vulnerable performance of his career. Those expecting Dirty Harry's persona will be uncomfortable with one scene where Big Clint breaks down with sobs and a quivering lower lip. Eastwood's heartbreak connects his 50-year relationship the actor has had with his audience.
There is truth in this fictional narrative that surpasses the political bias of documentary filmmakers. Like a perfectly aged fine wine, Eastwood the director's confident slow paced style reveals that he is a master of visual poetry. As he approaches his eighties, Clint Eastwood is producing some of his best work ever by working with both a young and experienced cast. While this motion picture is not as much fun as his earlier movies, “Million Dollar Baby” is a rare dramatic experience that marries an actor to his loyal audience.