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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 Rob Gonsalves

"This isn't even among Eastwood's 20 best films."
2 stars

Over the past few years, I've said a few times that Clint Eastwood is in the Autumnal stage of his career -- the period wherein his movies have started coming to grips with old age, loss, death. 'Million Dollar Baby,' which a lot of people are convinced is his masterpiece, may be Eastwood's most Autumnal work yet: gritty, dark, melancholy, on speaking terms with failure and regret.

By now, Eastwood and his longstanding tight unit of collaborators are incapable of making a slipshod movie; this one is, as usual with Clint, measured and solid and expertly acted. But it left me cold nonetheless. Eastwood is attempting something major here, but the script isn't complex enough to support it, and nobody here really does anything he or she hasn't done before.

Consider the heroine, Maggie Fitzgerald, a poor but plucky Southern gal played by Hilary Swank at her pluckiest. Maggie, at 31, wants to be a boxer. She may not have the moves yet, but she has Heart, and, as a century of sports movies will tell you, Heart is all you need. Maggie comes from bona fide White Trash, characterized here with possibly the most blatant set of caricatures in any Eastwood-directed film since Sudden Impact. But Maggie herself is Good and Pure, with scarcely a flicker of ambition or greed clouding her path. She just wants to Be Someone. She just wants to Fight.

Eastwood, as creaky "cut man" and gym owner Frankie Dunn, just wants to Be Left Alone. Yes, Clint is the Irascible Old Coot Who Won't Give Our Heroine a Chance. But Maggie keeps coming to the gym, and before long, Frankie's old friend and gym janitor Scrap (Morgan Freeman) starts sneaking her lessons after hours. Oh, what a challenging role this is for Morgan Freeman, who gets to Be Wise and Keep His Own Counsel and Narrate the Movie. Scrap is an old softy, and, it turns out, so is Frankie, who eventually consents to train Maggie.

There is a Training Montage. There are Decisive Boxing Matches, most of which Maggie wins in the first round. There is Foreshadowing: Frankie has a thing about not taking risks with his fighters, because of Scrap's own Sad Backstory involving the loss of sight in his right eye. There is even a Villain, in the person of dirty-fighting former prostitute Billie "The Blue Bear" (Lucia Rijker), this movie's Mr. T to Maggie's Rocky. Billie has a nasty habit of sucker-punching her opponents even after they've fallen to the canvas. We know, unless this is our first movie, that Maggie and Billie are due for a clash of the titans.

What we may not foresee is the Plot Twist, of which much has been made. Don't worry, I won't spoil it. It certainly kicks Million Dollar Baby off its expected track, turning the movie into a lugubrious meditation on Life and the Meaning of Same. A priest is consulted. The movie's already dark lighting scheme goes all the way into shadow. Eastwood holds melodrama at arm's length with his usual leathery reserve, but it lurks in the movie's corners. Maggie's family is brought on for more jeering, accompanied by a Sleazy Lawyer. Eastwood may be trying for archetypes here, the way he did in Unforgiven, but in that movie (which I consider his true masterpiece) he dug around inside the archetypes, casting off the mythological cobwebs that had gathered around them. This movie replaces that with lazy screenwriting (based on stories by F.X. Toole, which I haven't read); it's as if scripter Paul Haggis took a hard left turn towards catastrophe because he didn't know any other way to avoid a clichéd finale, but he just trades one cliché for another.

Million Dollar Baby is certainly a somber enough piece of work to explain all the accolades and awards. But, to paraphrase Frankie, somber ain't enough. This is Eastwood's weakest work in years, perhaps because it yokes itself to a hot-button theme instead of a story that resonates. I also think the movie might've been more touching with a cast of unknowns: The reason we were able to buy Sylvester Stallone as a broken-down, below-poverty-level contender in the first Rocky is that, at the time, that wasn't far from his reality. Stallone also managed to write a denouement (if we forget about the sequels up until Rocky Balboa) in which failure and realism co-existed with triumph and a dream fulfilled.

Here, we have rich Hollywood actors shuffling around in the gloom of expensively grimy sets, pretending they live there, and at the end, the characters have to pretend to make a hard choice, though, when you think about it later, the script leaves them no other choice.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11345&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/30/06 07:04:50
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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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