Film: Million Dollar Baby

Cover image

Million Dollar Baby

Director: Clint Eastwood
Distributor: Warner Home Video

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, produces 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.


Clint Eastwood’s 25th film as a director, Million Dollar Baby stands proudly with Unforgiven and Mystic River as the masterwork of a great American filmmaker. In an age of bloated spectacle and computer-generated effects extravaganzas, Eastwood turns an elegant screenplay by Paul Haggis (adapted from the book Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner by F.X. Toole, a pseudonym for veteran boxing manager Jerry Boyd) into a simple, humanitarian example of classical filmmaking, as deeply felt in its heart-wrenching emotions as it is streamlined in its character-driven storytelling. In the course of developing powerful bonds between “white-trash” Missouri waitress and aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), her grizzled, reluctant trainer Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), and Frankie’s best friend and training-gym partner Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman), 74-year-old Eastwood mines gold from each and every character, resulting in stellar work from his well-chosen cast. Containing deep reserves of love, loss, and the universal desire for something better in hard-scrabble lives, Million Dollar Baby emerged, quietly and gracefully, as one of the most acclaimed films of 2004, released just in time to earn an abundance of year-end accolades, all of them well-deserved. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

The Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 2004 represents yet another triumph for Clint Eastwood, the former western star who has become one of Hollywood’s most talented and celebrated filmmakers. We can’t really do justice to Million Dollar Baby with a brief synopsis because, frankly, on paper it doesn’t seem particularly unique or innovative. Eastwood plays the grizzled owner of a rundown gym and the trainer of an up-and-coming boxer who has just abandoned him in favor of more aggressive management. Along comes Hilary Swank, a trailer-trash waitress determined to become a fighter. She hasn’t got a thing going for her except a burning desire, but that’s enough to make Clint believe the girl might be worth handling. You might think this has the making of a fairly routine rags-to-riches story, and to an extent you’d be right. But Eastwood the director—prompted, of course, by Paul Haggis’ superb script adapted from F. X. Toole’s short-story collection Rope Burns—throws his viewers a surprise roundhouse punch in the movie’s second half, turning a seemingly predictable ring yarn into an intensely gripping drama. The carefully limned relationship between this gravel-voiced old trainer and his hardworking protégée carries the story over some pretty rugged, melodramatic terrain, but it remains firmly rooted in the expertly crafted characterizations of Eastwood, Swank, and Morgan Freeman (quietly effective as a washed-up fighter who toils in the gym). The dialogue is terse, and hardly a line is spoken that isn’t necessary. Eastwood’s lean and unpretentious direction advances the story without calling attention to its improbabilities; he richly deserves the additional Oscar he won for wielding the megaphone. The same can be said of Swank, whose own modest upbringing informed her portrayal of the ambitious young wannabe who chooses a sweaty old gymnasium to home and hearth because she wants nothing as much as success in the ring. Very much deserving of all the honors heaped upon it, Million Dollar Baby is one of those rare movies that will crawl inside your head and burrow its way into your memory. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Album:Million Dollar Baby: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Million Dollar Baby: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood’s gritty boxing drama was the big winner at the 2005 Academy Awards, garnering Oscars for Best Film, Best Director (Eastwood), Best Actress (Hillary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). As it did for 2003’s Mystic River, Eastwood’s life-long love of music and budding confidence as a composer has led him again to score the film himself. Anchored by elegiac figures for solo acoustic guitar and piano, it often shares River’s spacious, subtle introspection. But it’s also occasionally seasoned with welcome dollops of jazz and…

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