Million Dollar Baby (2004)

(If you have never seen Million Dollar Baby and don’t want to be spoiled, please don’t read this review.)

I have now seen Million Dollar Baby twice in my life, and I am okay with never watching it again. This best picture winner has to be the best and worse movie I have ever watched in my life. That sounds harsh but listen to me before you bring the hate.

The entire first act has to be one of the best boxing stories ever captured on film. The build-up of boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is on the same level as Rocky Balboa and Billy Hope (Southpaw), which I consider to be the best boxing movies of all-time. Maggie had nothing but heart and an eagerness to learn. She scraped and clawed her way for everything in life. She was such an inspiring character, not just for boxers but for girls to reach for their dreams.

She had an amazing relationship with her reluctant coach Frankie Dunn, played by the icon himself, Clint Eastwood. He owns a gym with Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, played by Morgan Freeman, who does all the narration. Together these two old men of the ring will take a young pup under their wing and show her the bright lights of Vegas, where she’ll finally content for the championship of the world. The only problem is, Frankie has always played it safe and never likes to take chances when it comes to the health and well-being of his clients. Maggie was no exception, except her success was too good to keep locked away. 

Then the second act begins in the championship match. Maggie walked in a contender with the entire world in front of her. She never made it out of the ring, and she never walked again. In one of Hollywood’s roughest gut-punches, Maggie ends up as a paraplegic and in her vulnerability, the vultures decent upon her hospital room to take what little she has left. 

I didn’t like her family from earlier in the movie, but when they show up to take her money, the moment is so surreal that you want to throw your remote through the TV. Eastwood did a fantastic job to get the audience to get so heavily invested in this character. One minute she’s on top of the world, and in an instant, it all came crumbling down. Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt the first time I watched it. I refused to watch this film again because I didn’t think I had it in me to watch it again once I knew the outcome. 

My wife had never seen Million Dollar Baby and was as disappointed as I was upon her first viewing. Originally I gave this film eight stars even though I have a love/hate relationship with it. I admire everything about the film even though I can’t even bring myself to enjoy the second act. 8/10


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