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Overall Rating
4.42

Awesome67.8%
Worth A Look: 18.94%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad: 6.06%
Total Crap: 3.03%

16 reviews, 168 user ratings


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Million Dollar Baby
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by Peter Sobczynski

"One of the most powerful and moving works of Eastwood's entire career"
5 stars

As anyone who has ever watched a boxing movie (or actual boxing, I suppose) knows, one of the secrets to victory is to fake out your opponent. If you can lull him into thinking that he knows exactly what you are going to do, such as making him think that you are going to hit him with a left to the body, and then pull the opposite move, a right to the jaw will suffice here, the combination of surprise and impact can lead to an immediate knockout if done correctly. Clint Eastwood’s new film, the boxing melodrama “Million Dollar Baby”, operates on much the same principle. For the first two-thirds, it is a smart, sturdy effort that seems to be heading in one direction. At a certain point, however, Eastwood pulls a stunning out-of-nowhere switch and changes his film from an efficient piece of entertainment into not only one of the very best films of the year but one of his most powerful and moving works of his entire career-either as an actor or as a director.

Eastwood stars as Frankie Dunn, a one-time expert cut man who now divides his time between managing the kinds of boxers who will either amount to nothing or abandon him at the first taste of success and running a run-down gym with long-time associate Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman). One night, after another fight, he is met by a young female boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who asks him to train her. He refuses. She insists that she is pretty tough. ”Girly tough ain’t enough” is his response. However, she is tougher than he thinks for the very next day, she shows up at his gym and begins working out. He does nothing but ignore her or order her to leave-she has no real training and, at 31, is too old to start-but still she continues; for her, boxing is the only thing that makes her otherwise bleak life worthwhile. Eventually, with the encouragement of Eddie, Frankie relents and begins to train her.

Against all odds, Maggie proves to be a natural at the sport and is soon knocking out all opponents in the first few seconds of her fights. She is so good, in fact, that Eddie secretly tries to steer her towards another, better connected, manager; Frankie’s flaw has been that he brings his fighters along too slowly and cautiously and Eddie doesn’t want Maggie’s shot to be ruined as a result. However, Maggie is as determined out of the ring as in it and sticks with Frankie as her fame continues to grow. Before long, she is ready to battle for the world championship against a fierce, fearsome opponent.

To this point, “Million Dollar Baby” is a lean and effective example of the kind of classical filmmaking style that few filmmakers besides Eastwood even attempt these days; instead of rushing the story along or using flashy editing or cinematography, he allows things to play out at their own speed in a loose, unhurried manner. The three central performances are excellent-Eastwood and Freeman, as they showed in “Unforgiven”, play well off of each other and only need a couple of scenes to suggest the lifetime of history that their characters have shared. Swank, whose career since winning the Oscar for her work in “Boys Don’t Cry”, more than holds her own with the veterans and she is also fearsomely convincing in the physically demanding boxing sequences. There are a few moments that don’t quite work-a subplot about a mentally challenged kid who hangs out at the gym and a visit to Maggie’s unpleasant white-trash family feel like tacked-on distractions-but for every one of those, there is an equally memorable bit to be had from crowd-pleasing moments like Eddie having fight #110 to the oddly graceful sight of waitress Maggie practicing her footwork while serving customers.

It is at this point that Eastwood pulls out his surprise punch and reveals the true reason why he chose to make the film. To reveal anything about this development would be a crime but it not only sends the film in new and surprising directions, it gives everything that we have seen a deeper resonance-even the moments that seemed pointless before now take on a new dimension as the reasons for their existence finally become clear. Most importantly, the three actors shift their game into a higher gear as well and come up with some of the best work that they have ever done on-screen. The final scenes between Eastwood and Swank are incredibly moving without pushing the pathos and Freeman is their equal as the observer to the proceedings-the voice-over narration that he delivers is one of the best examples of that particular narrative device, usually the last refuge of the lazy screenwriter, that I have ever heard.

Even though he has been, despite a string of lackluster efforts in the wake of his “Unforgiven” triumph, one of the most interesting and dependable American filmmakers, Clint Eastwood still doesn’t quite get the respect as a director that he deserves. His work here is masterful-there is never a single wasted moment or false note-and the way that he handles the tricky closing scenes is astounding for the way that he provokes any number of strong emotions without ever overtly pushing or manipulating the audience to feel any particular way. More importantly, even though he is moving into somewhat uncharted territory as a director here, he never lets any sense of strain show (unlike works like “Bird” and the overrated “Mystic River”, where he was almost paralyzed by his efforts to create Art); his work here is as natural and unforced as anything he has done and it is easily his best film since “Unforgiven”.

It is a funny thing about Clint Eastwood as a director. Sometimes he tries too hard to make a Great Movie and the results have been lifeless drags-recall his mystifying “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Other times, he simply bangs out a movie simply for the sake of doing one and gives viewers the slipshod likes of “The Rookie”, “True Crime” or “Blood Work”. Because he only began shooting “Million Dollar Baby” in the late summer and it was a last-second addition to the winter Oscar derby (even “Entertainment Weekly”, the Warner Brothers house organ, didn’t have it listed in their fall/winter preview), I went into the screening fearing that it would be another one of his slapdash efforts. Two hours later, I left stunned and realizing that no matter how rapidly he might have put it together, it was clearly the kind of story that he wanted to tell for a long time before finding the proper vehicle for it. The result is a genuine masterpiece-the kind of Clint Eastwood film that even Pauline Kael herself might have had kind words for.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11345&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/16/04 01:10:29
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User Comments

4/15/14 Ckevzlni USA 5 stars
4/08/14 kqugjc USA 4 stars
2/20/14 tjxykvubjx USA 3 stars
2/04/14 Qxwkcmtb USA 5 stars
1/25/11 Laura Very accurate portrayal of how black women act; angry, mean, hostile and cruel 5 stars
4/10/10 Monday Morning Storytelling, acting and filmmaking at its best. I love Hillary Swank, too. 5 stars
10/21/09 Helen An excellent film, Frankie makes the only choice possible. 5 stars
2/18/09 brian Hillbilly family pathetic cliche, product placement obtrusive, otherwise excellent 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. paul shortt :] is dead wrong. it doesn't make it seem wrong, he lives with his choice. 5 stars
5/15/08 PAUL SHORTT DREADFUL FILM, WITH A FINAL MESSAGE THAT MANAGES TO MAKE A WRONG CHOICE SEEM RIGHT 1 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike Clint was better than Ray , should've won the best actor Oscar 4 stars
5/22/07 R.W. Welch Vitually flawless welterweight tragedy with knockout perf by Swank. 5 stars
5/21/07 Sam Bonner The closest thing you will ever see to a classic short story come to cinematic life. 5 stars
3/28/07 Stanley Thai A very good film with great performances, 5 stars
2/05/07 Brett A big exercise in rejection and sadness, for those who must thrive on this 3 stars
1/13/07 David Pollastrini didn't see that twist coming! 4 stars
11/28/06 piyus kumar want to know the level of dedication and determination one can put towards his/her work 5 stars
11/17/06 Alyssa Hale Hillary Swank was Outstanding! Great story! 5 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen Could the product placement be any more intrusive? 3 stars
6/08/06 Ashley Hinz Rather disturbing, but meaningful. 4 stars
6/08/06 Peggy Doty What a wonderful movie 5 stars
6/03/06 Dan loved it....very sad 5 stars
5/27/06 Steve Newman Absolutely first class - go see 5 stars
5/22/06 Diane P excellent excellent excellent moved me, hilary swank deserved the oscar she won 5 stars
5/19/06 drydock54321 really depressing how they paralyzed her like that 2 stars
5/16/06 Lance Vig you just can't commit murder no matter what... 4 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Not as impactful as it should be, but kudos to Eastwood for a sharp, bitter take on life. 4 stars
3/15/06 van zwaar nay sayers=bunch of lamo g.lucas starwank anal fans 5 stars
3/05/06 Simon Wow, I guess it's not for the easily bored, but this is one powerful, moving, daring film. 5 stars
1/29/06 James This reviewer is depressingly ignorant and inaccurate.& the film is 1 big unoriginal cliche 2 stars
1/04/06 Sully Great flick. The hillbilly family made me laugh. 5 stars
12/24/05 S Gray OVER RATED! Hilary Swank is likeable but Eastwood + twisted ending doesn't = Academy Award 3 stars
12/13/05 lukas it was boring 2 stars
12/06/05 Andrea Tuttle That was such a great movie!!! It just makes you want to keep going no matter what!! 5 stars
12/05/05 od God it sucks big time 1 stars
11/21/05 WiseMan I didnt Know a shitty movie could win 4 Academy Awards. VERY SLOW AND BORING! OVERHYPED 1 stars
11/18/05 Chris Barrett Well Worth It's Oscars!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! 5 stars
10/30/05 Charles Durham Powerful.Time will prove it to be a masterpiece 5 stars
10/26/05 Frank Rountree Great movie about about a great under-rated sport! 4 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands A masterpiece if there is such a thing. Riveting, dramatic as hell, perfect. 5 stars
10/08/05 James Skinner Depressing, unnecessary characters, well shot, excess of sub-plots, not "over-starred" 5 stars
10/03/05 poo tries too hard 2 stars
9/18/05 lucee Echo Snider. Even the boxing is interesting because you get the intellectual approach. 5 stars
9/15/05 Tom Burns The best boxing movie i have ever seen. Great acting! 5 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes a knouckout, haunting 5 stars
9/04/05 Die Bush Fairly well made but average script and boring, ignorant characters make it a waste of time 2 stars
9/02/05 Zack the best movie iv seen 5 stars
8/27/05 Indrid Cold Textbook example of how to push the audience's buttons, but nothing we haven't seen before. 4 stars
8/19/05 herkos akhaion Just didn't move me 3 stars
8/18/05 Larisa It wasa great Movie I really enjoyed it. And one of all time faviourite Movie. 5 stars
8/12/05 ES first half= oscar winner, last half= what happened to the great film I was watching? 3 stars
8/09/05 Fleetwood MAhh 3 stars
8/07/05 Anthony De Cristoforo just a wonderful, satisfying movie, emotionally and intellectually 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO DANGER! A. Mackie sucked nuts, Swank ate balls, Eastwood was like wood, bad, bad script 2 stars
7/22/05 Dan Saddening. 5 stars
7/22/05 DM Not your typical boxing movie. Multi-layered and very wel-paced. 5 stars
7/20/05 Bad Critic A great boxing movie with a shocking ending. It had Brian F. O'Byrne in it! He's good! 4 stars
7/17/05 negation didn't think it would be this good. 5 stars
7/17/05 Mike moving, sophisticated, understated, surprising, disturbing, ultimnately first rate 5 stars
7/14/05 Jim Bare This movie is obviously a PRO Asssisted Suicide Promo. One of the biggest sellouts!!!!!!!! 1 stars
7/14/05 Phil M. Aficionado But for the cartoonish family, a perfect film in every sense. Knockout -- 1st round. 5 stars
7/10/05 Roy Kouchakgi Powerful, moving, and with a message of life, MDB is truly the best picture of the year 5 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands Not only one of the biggest, foremost stand-outs of Clint's career, but of film history. 5 stars
6/05/05 Ubu the Ripper Stunning. Eastwood is a director's director's director. Wow. 5 stars
6/04/05 Denise Gannon ex-Beverly Hills 90210 actress gets ANOTHER Oscar. just wish she'd change that last name. 3 stars
5/30/05 Jake A haunting and moving film! One of 2004's best films! 5 stars
5/23/05 Marilyn Great movie - disliked the ending 4 stars
5/18/05 LOTR FREAK Boring! Gay! Doesn't deserve best Pictures. LOTR is 1000000000000 times better 1 stars
5/12/05 Camilla Vinassa empty and shallow 1 stars
5/02/05 MeredithL Perfect! Well acted and intense! 5 stars
4/18/05 DODGY DAVE THE DJ EXCELLENT FILM FROM START TO FINISH 5 stars
4/16/05 Arse Poet Cunt almost made me cry 5 stars
4/03/05 Kerry Iyua This was a really, really, great movie! I loved every inch of it. 5 stars
3/30/05 John Bale Clint Eastwood is a legend at 75. A human story superbly acted. Don't miss. 5 stars
3/27/05 EDS awesome 5 stars
3/26/05 Greg Ursic Phenomenal! This film deserved to sweep the Oscars. 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise good 4 stars
3/25/05 malcontent Freeman's underrated, Eastwood's overrated 4 stars
3/24/05 Michael Lloyd great acting and directing, but very predictable and not nearly as emotional as people say 4 stars
3/24/05 dana Gordon Not my choice for Best Movie, but thoroughly enjoyable 4 stars
3/23/05 Jack Bourbon Frankie turns out to be a rhinoceros 5 stars
3/22/05 Kevin Rose Great Movie. 5 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim A great drama let down by a disappointing ending 4 stars
3/19/05 Rachel I'm making everyone, EVERYONE see this movie 5 stars
3/19/05 lora this movie has an amazing pace 5 stars
3/16/05 Andrea heartwrenching 5 stars
3/13/05 ray an absolutely incredible film. i haven't seen a better drama in years. 5 stars
3/11/05 Gayle Morgan excellent - Hillary is awesome in this! 5 stars
3/09/05 your worst goddamn nightmare This film moved me (and no, it wasn't my bowel) 5 stars
3/09/05 LarryV Transcends the cliches of the genre. A terrific film 5 stars
3/07/05 malcolm turning point match was a little contrived, otherwise excellent 4 stars
3/06/05 Josh Full of stereotypes (her "trash" family!) and sports cliches. Dull. 2 stars
3/05/05 The Crack A surprisingly powerful emotional experience. Simply put, the best movie of the year. 5 stars
3/05/05 Sam Eskenazi deserving all around 5 stars
3/03/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! THIS MOVIE CAN SUCK MY LEFT NUT!!! 1 stars
3/03/05 dbx great film, amazing even in some places 4 stars
3/01/05 IAther7@aol.com what was the La ??name was given to swank CAN SOME ONE E-MAIL ME THE NAME 5 stars
3/01/05 Barbara Blonsky I hated this cliche ridden boring movie! 2 stars
2/26/05 Cameron Cubbison anybody that doesn't walk away from thie film thinking ...masterpiece in every way...nuts 5 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang Excellent film. Not "only" a boxing movie, but more than just the controversy as well. 5 stars
2/24/05 Mary JD Wonderful story line! Great Acting! great job Clint 5 stars
2/23/05 Russell TS Brilliant boxing scenes,some humour but ultimately heart wrenching. Recommended adult movie 5 stars
2/23/05 Ros Over-rated but still a good film.Swank excellent but Freeman phones it in.Not Oscar-worthy. 4 stars
2/21/05 Natalie Stonecipher 3 well-earned acting oscar noms. but overall film still a manipulative sob bath. 4 stars
2/21/05 fiona you've got to hand it to Clint. He has a knack for making a good movie. 4 stars
2/21/05 Kristina Williams STUNNING. They better get those damn Oscars for this. 5 stars
2/20/05 Steve Michaud Eastwood has cemented his reputation as a master storyteller 5 stars
2/20/05 lj eastwood rocks it 5 stars
2/18/05 daniel r walker This was a fine film, not an amazing film.. I worry that this is the best we can come up w. 4 stars
2/18/05 Eileen Lammers I totally enjoyed the movie! Great acting and good story! 4 stars
2/18/05 miamivice goos film. not as good as closer 4 stars
2/17/05 john h. wallace what a range of emotions i felt watching this magnificent film 5 stars
2/17/05 Jeremy ok but needs a real title rethink! 2 stars
2/17/05 Naka Fantastic! 5 stars
2/16/05 Taylor Fladgate Incredible...but don't expect a sequel 5 stars
2/15/05 Alison Smart "...always protect yourself..." is the center of this story. This is great storytelling! 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Best movie I've seen in a long time! Clint at his best! 5 stars
2/14/05 KCobain The first two acts are marvelous. The third cheats and all momentum is gone. 3 stars
2/10/05 David Bennett Interesting movie 4 stars
2/09/05 Ray good not great 3 stars
2/09/05 Alex Stick this in your pipe and smoke it Scorsese!! 5 stars
2/05/05 Ann Klonicki A++ Go Clint 5 stars
2/04/05 axe Lucia Rijker makes a nasty villain(ess), her and the movie remind me of a Macy Gray song 5 stars
2/04/05 Melody A Its been a long time since a movie touched and inspired me so much 5 stars
2/04/05 Mirella Rodriguez Another oscar for Hillary for sure. Clint's best film yet. 5 stars
2/04/05 Helen Bradley Movies as good as this deserve awards, Eastwood is excellent as is Swank 5 stars
2/04/05 Barbara Long Very good movie, oscar worthy 5 stars
2/03/05 Clifford C Gardner This is a FINE film - go Clint 5 stars
2/02/05 Steve Michaud With this and "Mystic River", Eastwood has cemented his reputation as a master filmmaker 5 stars
2/02/05 Tammera Mack need more of these movies 5 stars
2/02/05 Lynde Foy Loved it--Clint gives us his best work yet!!!! 4 stars
2/02/05 Barbie A slice of low life that ends sadly ever after. 2 stars
2/01/05 craig varney clint eastwood at his best 5 stars
2/01/05 Gladys Paradowski This is thoroughly entertaining. I would gladly view it again. 4 stars
2/01/05 John i can't sit through a movie with hilary swank, she is not attractive 3 stars
2/01/05 Alison Very well directed; Eastwood never disappoints 5 stars
1/31/05 Lisa Craven Loved It, can watch Hilary & Clint all day 5 stars
1/31/05 Joseph Berger Very thoughtful, depressing ending, beautifully crafted 5 stars
1/31/05 Naka An affecting, haunting portrait of human determination. AWESOME. 5 stars
1/31/05 Carl Gorney Bad name choice of a title...otherwise,I'd watch it 4 stars
1/31/05 Koitus WOW! I think I just saw the movie for "Best Picture" and "Director!" Excellent!!! 5 stars
1/30/05 Flounder This movie is the best film that I have seen this year bar none! 5 stars
1/30/05 GoodFellaJCA greatly acted, supurb direction, excellent all the way around. Best Picture of 2004. 5 stars
1/30/05 billybob thorton it sucked 1 stars
1/30/05 Fred Pellerito Worth a look if not more than to see Morgan Freemans awesome performance 4 stars
1/29/05 jcjs good one 5 stars
1/29/05 buddy garrett good but overrated 4 stars
1/29/05 John Bale Up there with Requiem for a Heavyweight and Raging Bull, superb ensemble performances. 5 stars
1/29/05 darlenecom Morgan Freeman is really Great in this one. Time will tell whether he'll get an oscar. 5 stars
1/29/05 keith james MAKE THAT IOO MILLION DOLLAR BABY! 5 stars
1/28/05 carol alexander fantastic acting, fantastic story!!! 5 stars
1/28/05 David Grate movie 5 stars
1/22/05 Suzz pitch-perfect acting, directing, storytelling 5 stars
1/21/05 ownerofdajoint A TRULY GREAT MOVIE! 5 stars
1/20/05 babie raper yet again a superb effort from clint . E 5 stars
1/18/05 ajay fantastic, but not "the greatest movie ever"... certainly better then white chicks. :) 4 stars
1/17/05 ownerofdajoint BEST MOVIE IN A YEAR! 5 stars
1/11/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Can't stop thinking about this amazing amazing amazing film and performances therein. 5 stars
1/10/05 Windmills A masterpiece. 5 stars
1/08/05 Lucas Stenz Not a masterpiece, but very good 4 stars
1/06/05 alvin this REALLY kickd ass 5 stars
1/05/05 Jim The Movie Freak Easily the film of the year alongside Eternal Sunshine. Cried like a baby! 5 stars
1/04/05 magaafi some people say clint is too old 2 make a good movie....well fuck them./ 5 stars
1/02/05 Mike What a moving film. For a change, a film that doesn't need any special effects. 5 stars
12/29/04 Merle Enchin performances were very real 5 stars
12/23/04 mike schaeffer important and profoundly moving 5 stars
12/16/04 Kristina Williams My local indie theater started showing this. BLEW ME AWAY. 5 stars
12/15/04 Mike V Clint is king! This is a damn good movie. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Jul-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Feb-2005


Directed by
  Clint Eastwood

Written by
  Paul Haggis

Cast
  Clint Eastwood
  Hilary Swank
  Morgan Freeman
  Jay Baruchel
  Mike Colter
  Lucia Rijker



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