Million Dollar Baby

3.5 / 5.0

Viewed August, 2005. Reviewed September 4, 2005.

When I first heard about this movie, I assumed it was the female version of "Rocky". I assumed wrong. This movie is NOT a female version of "Rocky". It is a boxing film, but there aren't many boxing scenes. It is a love film, but there is no sex. This movie is about a boxing gym manager (Clint Eastwood), a waitress with a dream (Hilary Swank), and an over the hill ex-boxer (Morgan Freeman).

The first half of the film is almost too cliche for words: Manager had his shot, but lost it. Boxer has desire but not skill. Boxer finds manager. Boxer learns. Boxer gets her shot. Manager gets his shot vicariously through Boxer.

Then the movie changes. I can't begin to describe how, because doing so would spoil the movie. Sorry. Use your Googling skills if you want to find out more about the plotline. Better yet, go rent the movie, then read the rest of this review :-).

I'm glad I didn't write this review the day I saw the movie. Had I done so, I would have gushed as much as most professional critics. But the more I thought about the movie, the more I felt disappointed. The movie was not bad. It was well-acted. It was well-paced. The cinematography was brilliant. It was unique. But it was still flat. It offers very little food for thought. The viewer never feels a sense of conflict. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the characters always do exactly what they are supposed to do.

James Rocchi, perhaps the only critic to pan "Million Dollar Baby", called the movie a "fixed fight." I like that phrase. Everything is layed out perfectly for the viewer. Morgan Freeman's character offers (in narration, no less) the same sage advice Freeman has offered before. Clint Eastwood plays the same grizzly-old-man-who-finds-his-heart character he has played before. Even Hilary Swank plays a troubled young woman who overcomes her obstacles... as if we haven't seen her do that before. The audience is asked to feel only the obvious. In "The Unforgiven", Eastwood does a masterful job of making us see both good and bad in every character. But "Million Dollar Baby" is far more pedantic and one-dimensional.

Ultimately, I give this move an A for effort, but I can't justify giving it more than 3.5 / 5.0 stars. The movie tackles a harsh subject, but rounds the edges so the audience is never challenged to think for themselves.

Gentlemen: This isn't your father's "Rocky." Don't watch this if you expect to see a boxing flick.

Ladies: This isn't your father's "Rocky." You might actually find it interesting.