Thursday, January 19, 2012

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Rated R
Starring: Hilary Swank, Clint Eeastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Margo Martindale
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Tagline: Beyond his silence, there is a past. Beyond her dreams, there is a feeling. Beyond hope, there is a memory. Beyond their journey, there is a love.
Running time: 132 Minutes
#124 on IMDB Top 250

Quick Summary: After losing his best fighter, a struggling boxing trainer and gym owner reluctantly agrees to train a determined woman, who wants to make a name for herself as a boxer.

I have really never been a huge fan of Clint Eastwood as an actor. It probably stems from the fact that, outside of Tombstone and Young Guns 1 & 2, I’m not real big on Westerns. I’ve probably seen a bunch of Eastwood’s Westerns, but honestly don’t remember much about them. I also get the feeling that he is a very serious dude (even though he was in a movie with an orangutan co-star), and that always kinda turned me away from him. But recently, I have seen 2 movies he’s been in (and directed) that have turned my opinion around on him. 2008’s Gran Torino and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby.

I think my indifference towards Eastwood and my thinking that I didn’t like Hilary Swank led me to avoid Million Dollar Baby, even though I love movies about boxers and have probably definitely seen more movies about boxing than actual boxing matches, and I am completely ok with that, as movies about boxing are infinitely more interesting than random boxing matches. I’m guessing because almost every movie about boxers is the story of an underdog, and I always want to root for the underdog. You rarely ever see a movie about a boxer in the prime of his career, heavily favored and beating every opponent that just doesn’t make a good movie. Rocky was an underdog SIX different times in the last 30 years.

After watching Gran Torino, I had the distinct feeling that 78 Year Old Clint Eastwood was not acting; he WAS a crotchety old man who didn’t really like foreigners, or people getting in his yard or messing with his stuff. Eastwood wasn’t acting like he didn’t like his Cambodian neighbors; he genuinely did not like them. So either Eastwood is a tremendous actor who I had been ignoring for insignificant reasons, or he was just an old man who didn’t care. Either way, he nailed that performance. And in Million Dollar Baby, he’s pretty much the same, except he doesn’t really hate foreigners or people of different races in this, but he’s still a crotchety old man who hates kids and isn’t really fond of women. Of course, as in Gran Torino, by the end of Million Dollar Baby, he has changed, and has grown to not just tolerate women and others, but to actually love Maggie like she’s his own daughter.

As good as Eastwood was as an actor, he was even better as the director (I hadn’t realized that he was as prolific a director as he is, directing 36 movies), turning in a phenomenal film, with some outstanding performances (including his own). Hilary Swank was quite good (surprisingly to me), though this is the only movie I’ve seen her in other than Boys Don’t Cry, so I don’t really have a lot to compare her to. She was solid, and not just her performance, she was ripped, with more muscle definition than I’ve ever dreamt of having. Her accent was a little bit annoying, but not so bad that it took anything away from the film. Her accent wasn’t nearly as annoying as Jay Baruchel’s character, Danger Barch, a deep south Texas redneck who wouldn’t shut up. Rounding out the solid supporting cast is Margo Martindale, the underrated TV actress from fX shows The Riches and Justified, and Morgan Freeman, who is, as is usual, outstanding as the narrator/gym janitor.

So you’ve got Clint Eastwood nailing it as both an actor and director, you’ve got Hilary Swank knocking everybody out, and you’ve got Morgan Freeman doing what Morgan Freeman does, which makes this an excellent movie alone, before you even add in the great story. And it didn’t even matter that I already knew how it ended thanks to pop culture references from TV shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it didn’t ruin anything.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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