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Million Dollar Baby


Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has spent a lifetime in the boxing ring. Widely regarded as one of the best 'cut men' in the business, he has an uncanny ability to stop wounds from bleeding. Yet some wounds are too wide, some wounds cut too close to the bone, and there are some wounds that even someone as talented and gifted as Frankie just can't stop from bleeding.

Haunted by a wound inflicted by a painful estrangement from his only daughter, Dunn's life is ruled by the mantra 'Always protect yourself'. This same mantra dictates his approach for managing his fighters. While a brilliant trainer and cut man, Dunn's overly cautious approach has limited the success of his fighters.

The entrance of a determined, yet unpolished Maggie Fitzgerald (brilliantly played by Hilary Swank) into Dunn's gym would hardly appear a portent of success. Only Dunn's gym manager Scrap (Morgan Freeman) sees a natural talent and an incomparable determination in Maggie. Dunn in his typically gruff and cold manner dismisses Maggie's request for his help in training her. Yet, he can't help but find himself fascinated by her.

Clint Eastwood has assembled a film that rivals the beauty and eloquence of his Academy Award winning Unforgiven. There are some commonalities between the two. Morgan Freeman is back as Eastwood's right hand man in a role strikingly similar to the one he played in the previous film. And as was the case in Unforgiven, Eastwood and Freeman play two haunted and flawed, but well-intentioned men.

Eastwood and Freeman have a natural chemistry on screen that is effortless. Dunn and Scrap are intimately familiar with the others' strengths and all too pronounced weaknesses. Scrap sees how Dunn's wounds and fears limit him and prevent him from achieving success. By the same token, Dunn saw Scrap lose his ability to see during a fight, which could have been prevented had Scrap's manager at the time done a better job protecting him.

Hilary Swank's performance as Maggie Fitzgerald is no less compelling. Her presence exposes the soft underbelly that gruff and curt Dunn fights hard to conceal. Maggie too is haunted by a past and wounds that don't seem to heal too well. Swank seamlessly conveys a tough determination and a soft vulnerability. Her performance as Maggie in addition to her brilliant turn as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry has firmly established her as one of the most talented actresses in the business.

Million Dollar Baby scores on all fronts. The result is one of the most complete films of the year. Eastwood creates complex and multidimensional characters; he coaxes powerful performances out of his primary cast, and tells a wonderful story in the process. Million Dollar Baby has champion written all over it.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5