Million Dollar Baby (12A)
Time Out saysAt his gym in downtown LA, Frankie Dunne (Clint Eastwood) has been training and managing boxers for years, and not without success, though some of his fighters suspect that his motto – always protect yourself – has made him overly cautious with regard to championship bids. But if that’s so, Frankie’s life outside the gym is so private that the only person likely to understand his aversion to risk-taking is Scraps (Morgan Freeman), an ex-boxer who helps run the place. Not that the boss often heeds his advice: when Maggie (Hilary Swank), a po’-white-trash waitress from the Ozarks, turns up asking for tuition, Scraps sees real talent, but Frankie insists she’s too inexperienced, too old… and a woman. And Frankie don’t train women. But this one won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Don’t, please, read or listen to anything that tells you more than the above; the only other thing you need know is that Eastwood’s latest is a tremendous movie you should see, even if you think boxing pictures aren’t for you. To be aware of more of the plot would almost certainly diminish your enjoyment of the movie’s storytelling skills, not to mention its devastating emotional effect. This is Clint at his best: giving a beautifully nuanced performance himself, allowing Freeman and the rest of the cast enough time and space to fully inhabit their roles, eliciting an Oscar-worthy performance from Swank, and executing the whole thing with a classical grace, clarity and integrity seldom seen in modern mainstream cinema. Far more restrained than the sometimes atypically overwrought ‘Mystic River’, this displays the (deceptive) simplicity of a ‘Bird’ (its exploration of complex ethical issues manages to be both forthright and subtle), the emotional richness and integrity of a ‘Bridges of Madison County’, and the dramatic assurance and expertise of a ‘Josey Wales’. Quietly quite magnificent.
Fri Jan 14, 2005