"I DON'T TRAIN GIRLS", trainer Frankie Dunn growls. But something's different about the spirited boxing hopeful who shows up daily at Dunn's gym. All she wants is a fighting chance. Clint Eastwood plays Dunn and directs, p... more »roduces and composes music for this acclaimed, multi-award-winning tale of heart, hope and family. Hilary Swank plays resilient Maggie, determined not to abandon her one dream. And Morgan Freeman is Scrap, gym caretaker and counterpoint to Dunn's crustiness. Grab your dreams and come out swinging.« less
Jason C. (JJC) from NEWARK, NJ Reviewed on 9/26/2008...
You've done it again, Clint!
Clint Eastwood can easily sit amongst the table of great directors that influenced him, like Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, and furthermore, the geniuses like Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick and Kurosawa. Not only can he deliver great westerns like "High Plains Drifter," "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and of course "Unforgiven," but look at the more deeper films like "Bird," "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," and "Mystic River." In "Million Dollar Baby," Clint is once again handling both duties, director and actor, and delivers one of the best performances of his long career (alongside his William Munny in "Unforgiven").
Clint plays Frankie Dunn, an aging boxing trainer and boxing gym owner with demons that are haunting him from all angles. Frankie is managing a great boxer with a promising future ready for a title shot, but is somewhat holding him back from that great future. Frankie is let go, with nothing else to go to but his weather-beaten life.
Running the gym with Frankie is Eddie (Morgan Freeman), a retired, broke ex-boxer that befriended and worked with Frankie late in his boxing career. Eddie pretty much runs the gym as his own, even residing in it. We also learn that Frankie has a daughter that he's trying to communicate with, but wants nothing to do with him; a dispute we never learn about.
Along comes Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a poor, southern trailer-park girl with big dreams to become a great boxer, even at the current age of 31. Working as a waitress by day, and training herself in Frankie's gym by night, Maggie has much to learn, but is a natural. Maggie introduces herself to Frankie in hopes that he will take her on and train her, but he's not at all interested claiming, "I don't train girls." Not giving up, inexperienced Maggie trains her ass off at the gym, much to Eddie's notice...who teaches her a few things, and even lets her stay at the gym after hours to practice. Frankie, still wants nothing to do with her, but after seeing that the world is pretty much against her and that she has a devoted heart, Frankie decides to take Maggie on, under his strict conditions.
Frankie shows Maggie what she's made of, and after almost begging for a fight, Maggie is quickly given away to a slimy, two-bit boxing manager, a move that in Frankie's eyes, was the proper thing to do before Maggie got too good for him. After witnessing a fight in which Maggie is being horribly managed, Frankie steps in and takes his girl back and gives her the moves and the motivation to put her opponent down, and she does. Frankie knows this girl has the magic, and he also develops a fatherly love for her.
Fight after fight, Maggie becomes undefeated, performing knock-outs in first rounds. Up the ladder she goes, but Frankie again is hesitant to give his precious boxer a title shot. It's here where we learn a little bit of Frankie's past and why he's being tormented the way he is. Eddie also shares a past story to Maggie, which really sheds some light. There's much more to tell, but I can't get into it without giving more away. This is just enough to get your beaks wet.
What a fantastic film this is; smart, effective, powerful and moving. Eastwood again achieves greatness stature as director (coming off "Mystic River"), and even more so as an actor, who's gruff, elderly and heartfelt all in the same character. Hilary Swank is amazing, and her Maggie will definitely grab a hold of your heart when you see her small dreams come true, with that journey of strong effort and will, and the events that follow it (won't get into that, see the film). Morgan Freeman, is always great in everything he does, and his Eddie is a strong note in the film. The fight scenes are very well crafted and intensely directed, but this is more than just a boxing film, it's a film about our personal journeys, our levels of strength to get there, the gain, the loss, dealing with the results life has given you and most importantly, confronting your demons.
Hands down, the best boxing film since the "Raging Bull," and will definitely be long remembered. One of the best of 2004, do not hesitate!
Powerful, believable performances fuel this moving film
Jonathan Appleseed | 12/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hillary Swank (Margaret Fitzgerald), who proved her athleticism in her first major role, The Next Karate Kid, demonstrated it again, pummeling a heavy bag with a power left on which I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end. She's very convincing in this movie - both as a young woman from humble beginnings who wants to make a better life for herself, and as a boxer. In Million Dollar Baby, she returns to the visceral emotional range that left us so deeply moved in Boy's Don't Cry.
Clint Eastwood (Frankie Dunn), who has proved himself repeatedly, has perhaps turned in the best performance of his career. At times irascible, intellectual, mournful, instructive, reflective, passionate - in every manifestation, he reaches you. He was brilliant.
And Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman. As the narrator of the story, and an actor within it, he lends a soft-spoken touch that ameliorates some of the film's darker elements. He also lent the film a certain amount of boxing sagacity, as he spoke in non-technical and sometimes quasi-technical terms of the basics of boxing.
This film ain't no Rocky. It has an intelligence and compassion that Rocky (and virtually every boxing film ever made, save perhaps Raging Bull) couldn't think to have. Beyond that, it actually has better fight sequences. More often than in most boxing films - certainly the very poor choreography of the Rocky fight sequences - the punches looked and felt real, or as real as "fake" can make them.
Margaret introduces herself to Frankie after a fight and asks him to train her. He turns her down flat, saying that he doesn't train girls. Given her pluckiness, she appears at his gym the next day, punching a heavy bag with all of the skill, style and fluidity of Pinocchio. Finally he agrees to train her ("finally" takes a while, and watching it come to fruition, the subtle changes in Eastwood's character, is a real treat to watch), and soon she is ready for her first fight.
Here's the only similarity to Rocky: she turns out to be a natural, with a wicked left hook and overhand right (at least that I could see) and is knocking out all of her opponents in the first round. Some might think that this is, perhaps, a bit much. However, in the sport of women's boxing, such a thing isn't uncommon. PLEASE don't think that I'm saying women are not good boxers or don't have the same abilities that men do. It's simply that the increasing popularity of the sport hasn't quite yet led to the kind of talent that exists in men's boxing (although, frankly, talent on that side isn't exactly at it's apex). Her superiority over lesser opponents isn't unheard of.
There's so much more I want to say about this film, because from this point forward it moved from being one of the best films of the year - purely on the strength of the writing, and the performances of Swank and Eastwood in particular - to one of the best films I've seen in several years. I'm so grateful that reviewers didn't give away the ending. I'll just say that the ending is layered with surprises, and that it's been a very, very long time that I haven't seen a single cell phone being used (how annoying is that, even with all of the polite requests and warnings?), and also seen so many in the theater remain in their seats long after the movie ended.
It's a brilliant, brilliant film, the kind that makes me want to go back and change the number of stars I've given most movies that I've reviewed, simply so that this 5 star review means more. I recently gave Sideways, Closer, and Finding Neverland 5 stars, and while they are all very, very worthy films - I'd like to give this one six. "
6 Stars: Maggie May
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 01/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is "the best cut man in the business' intones the narrator, Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby." Frankie can clean up a cut in seconds so that a fighter can get back in the ring and at the very least finish the fight and at best, win. Yet Frankie can't heal the emotional wounds of his life even though he spends 365 days a year at Mass and writes letters to his estranged daughter every day asking for, I assume forgiveness. But the letters come back marked "Return to Sender" and Frankie files them away in a box and his life returns to the needs and wants of his Gym for Boxers and to his best friend, confidant and former fighter, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman). And then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into Frankie's Gym, pays her Gym dues for six months and asks Frankie every day to train her. And everyday he turns her down: "you're too old, too skinny...and you're a girl," he says. Until one day she wears him down, he concedes to her wishes and there begins a Cinderella story of fights won, money earned and glory attained. And then it's all taken away. Eastwood has made some great, even unforgettable films: "The Unforgiven, "Bird" to name a couple. But he has done nothing to match the guts, emotional power and poignancy of "Million Dollar Baby." And Hillary Swank, pretty much floundering after "Boys Don't Cry," is as sunny, thoughtful and real as she's ever been. There is a scene towards the end of "MDB" between Frankie and Maggie in which Frankie explains the meaning of a Gaelic nickname that he has given Maggie that grabs at your heart and is so beautifully realized that you are galvanized with emotion. It's so real and so true to the tone of the film that you can't help but gasp. "Million Dollar Baby" is Eastwood at his most emotionally aware and naked. This film comes from the deepest areas of Eastwood's heart and soul. It is a brave and honest film from one of the best purveyors of our Hopes and Dreams. "
flyguy | 03/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An instant classic. This was not only the best picture of the year, but could be the most emotional film I have ever seen. Freeman's narration performance was even more moving than in Shawshank. If you think you know where Clint is going with this film, you don't. One of my top 10 favorites of all time. I loved this movie, and I hope you do too."
Million Dollar Movie
Sean M. Sullivan | NJ | 02/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like others, I went into this movie knowing the basics. Clint Eastwood trains Hilary Swank to be a professional boxer. I only saw this movie because it is nominated in the Best Picture category, among others, & I felt to need to see it. I went into this movie with no expectations. I really thought I would think it was ok. Well, it FAR surpassed my expectations. After seeing this movie, I can finally understand what all the hype is about it! If you havent seen it, GO NOW! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Million Dollar Baby is a little bit of everything. A little drama, a little comedy & alot of heart tugging moments. I'm not going to give away the ending. .. that's for you guys to go see for yourselves. I will say however, that it will be money well worth spent. I have seen all 5 nominated films & I will be pulling for this Million Dollar Movie to take home the Best Picture Oscar!"
Life Isn't About Happy Endings
M. E. Wood | Canada | 01/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Waitress Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) wants to be a boxer. Problem is she has no experience and she's too old. At 31, most professional boxers have been and done the best of their careers. Maggie doesn't care. All she wants to do is box.
Trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) goes to church every day, reads books to expand his mind and writes his estranged daughter once a week hoping she'll write back. Frankie has never trained a woman before and has no desire to start now.
Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman) is a retired boxer who has a room in the back of Frankie's gym. He cleans up after the boxers and provides moral support and direction to Frankie who stood by him during his last fight when his manager was off having a good time somewhere else. He thinks Frankie should train Maggie and he loves Maggie's tenacity.
Maggie pretty much camps out on Frankie's door step (gym) until he agrees to train her. Their relationship immediately extends beyond that of trainer and trainee to daughter and father figure. These three make up an unlikely but solid family unit.
MDB was nothing like what I was expecting. I expected a female Rocky and ended up with an intense emotional drama with the usual specs of humour Eastwood provides. The uplifting quality of watching someone train to be the best they can be is present but not the main focus. Family, love, loss, determination, friendship, loyalty, betrayal are all prominent themes. MDB was wonderfully shot and acted. They deserved the 7 academy nominations and 4 wins they received. This movie is definitely worth adding to your Eastwood/Swank/Freeman collection. Bring tissues."