Million Dollar Baby (2004)

million dollar baby poster 2004 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good cast, well shot

Gets heavy handed and dives into stereotypes

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Million Dollar Baby

Studio:  Warner Bros./Lakeshore Entertainment/Malpaso Productions

Genre(s):  Drama/Sport

Release Date(s):  December 5, 2004 (Premiere)/December 15, 2004 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

million dollar baby hilary swank clint eastwood boxing

I like to hit things…

Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a gym owner who has never had a fighter go all the way.  When he loses another fighter, he finds an unlikely fighter in the persistent Mary Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) who won’t take no for an answer.  As Maggie starts winning her way through fight after fight, Frankie realizes he could have a real contender if he’s willing to let her take on the opponents she wants.  Boxing is a beast, and Maggie has dreams of a title…but one moment could change everything for both Maggie and Frankie.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby is a sports drama.  The film is based on the 2000 Rope Burns:  Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole and received positive reviews.  It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hilary Swank), and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman) with nominations for Best Actor (Eastwood), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

I went into Million Dollar Baby blind when I saw it.  Like a lot of people, I just figured it was a boxing movie…and like a lot of people I was shocked by the last act of the film.  Due to aspects of the script, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

million dollar baby eddie danger morgan freeman jay baruchel

Don’t mess with Danger

The movie (at its core) is about the relationship between Frankie and Maggie.  Frankie is estranged from his daughter and Maggie is looking for a father figure and a family.  The fighting portion of the movie proceeds like most boxing movies…except with little problems.  Maggie breezes through fights.  It is too easy…leading to the second half which hits hard about euthanasia and the right to die.  The relationship still remains the key, but it is a drastic change in tone.

Eastwood is his typical cranky self which has ruled most of his career but he has really grown into since he’s aged…he’s contrasted by the energy filled Maggie who has the challenge of the big turn at the end in her physical performance.  They are joined by perpetual narrator Morgan Freeman as his gym employee.  A sub plot involves Anthony Mackie, Jay Baruchel, and Michael Peña as members of the gym who are having their own battle for the “title”.  Lucia Rijker is also solid as the villainous boxer Billie “The Blue Bear” Osterman (though Margo Martindale, Riki Lindhome, and Marcus Chait as Maggie’s family is too over-the-top redneck).

million dollar baby ending hilary swank clint eastwood

Champion of the World!

The movie looks ok.  There have been a ton of boxing movies and this boxing movie isn’t done as well as others.  It doesn’t help that Maggie knocks people out in a couple punches because competitive fighting is what makes movies like Raging Bull and Rocky look better.  The movie gets overly dramatic (especially with the classic stool scene).

Million Dollar Baby is another movie that feels more like Oscar bait.  It is a decent film, but it is a movie that feels like it tries too hard.  It is earnest, but it sometimes feels like pandering.  The movie is memorable, but it also isn’t a movie I like to revisit…and it isn’t necessarily because of the heavy tone.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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