Like Mystic River, this is an Eastwood film that the critics and fans seem to love. Why, I’m not quite sure. Million Dollar Baby is a solid piece of entertainment, but nothing more. There are no surprises here, no stand out performances or new ideas.
Of course Hilary Swank is fantastic (but isn’t she always?); Morgan Freeman plays a typically wise old man (doesn’t he always?); and Clint does an okay job, but falters slightly in the more emotional moments. Plus his belt is doing the ‘old man creep’ on the way up to his nipples, so he loses points in my books.
The first two thirds of Million Dollar Baby held my attention well enough, but the last act was a little plain to tell the truth. I didn’t feel any particular emotional connection to the characters and never felt close to tears (I have been known to cry in films, but never as much as in Antartica (Nankyoku monogatari), the denouement of which left this four year old bawling).
The boxing sequences were well handled, and always seemed realistic. I was able to put on hold my personal views regarding the sport, and just enjoy the satisfying noises of slapping flesh as Swank punched a bunch of girls in the face.
When it comes down to it, however, Million Dollar Baby is just too simplistic. There was only a token subplot, one which had a predictable yet satisfying scene with Freeman, but apart from that there is only the Maggie/Frankie relationship. The film’s unanswered questions also seemed to stem from a lack of imagination rather than any kind of intelligent ambiguities.
Whilst Eastwood’s last two films have received much acclaim, I still yearn for the days of A Perfect World (and probably Unforgiven, although I can’t really remember much about it).Rating: