The best decision made by director Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby is to allow Clint Eastwood the performer to drop his screen persona and actually act. As the weathered boxing trainer Frankie Dunn, Eastwood does not seem larger than life, he seems beaten down by it. His banter with Morgan Freeman, as a boxer he used to train, occasionally plays like a brilliantly written Seinfeld episode featuring senior citizens. But often those conversations suddenly hint at great pain and regret, adding an unexpected gravity. Hilary Swank provides the necessary drive and spunk to make the audience believe she would eventually win the emotionally closed-off Frankie over. The first half of the film, an excellently observed boxing drama, allows the audience to meet the characters and understand where they are in their lives. However, a big event happens (one that would be inappropriate to reveal in this review) and the second half of the film becomes an old-fashioned melodrama. Eastwood's directorial style can be described as low-key, even when the emotions in the film are practically operatic. This decision will either draw audiences in to the characters' struggles, or it will distance viewers who feel the film is not allowing them to feel the emotions as fully as possible. At worst, people will be interested in rather than involved with the characters, but those who respond to Eastwood's style will probably be emotionally devastated. What one is left with is a memory of Eastwood's face, that leathery mask of taciturn male pride, cracking with the recognition of where his own life choices have left him. He has directed better films, but he has never given a better performance.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directed by Clint Eastwood / Hilary Swank / Morgan Freeman / Jay Baruchel / Mike Colter / Lucia Rijker
Genres - Drama | Sub-Genres - Sports Drama, Melodrama | Release Date - Dec 15, 2004 (USA - Limited) | Run Time - 132 min. | Countries - Canada, United States | MPAA Rating - PG13