MILLION DOLLAR BABY, 2004
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman
When his top boxer leaves him for another manager, Frankie begrudgingly agrees to train and manage female amateur boxer Maggie. What starts out as a rocky agreement turns out to be a championship contending match made in Heaven.
This 2005 Best Picture Oscar winner is the female equivalent of "Rocky"! It has intense twists and turns (some we know are coming while others rock our socks off), moments that had me laughing out loud, and emotional scenes that had me on the verge of tears. With a film that runs the emotional gambit as well as this, I’m surprised it only won 4 of the 7 awards it was nominated for. This movie had a killer 1, 2 punch that was as much of a knockout as Hilary Swank’s right hook!
Frankie is a boxing trainer and manager for top talent boxer "Big" Willie Little, and also owns and runs the Hit Pit boxing gym. Frankie is know for his ingenious training methods, although he is only moderately successful as a manager because he cares more about his boxers being the best they can be than them making the most money they can. This becomes evident when Frankie repeatedly turns down title shots for Big Willie, claiming the boxer needs "just 2 or 3 more fights" before he’s ready to contend. Because of this, Willie leaves Frankie for another manager, claiming Frankie’s taught him all he needs to know about boxing, and now it’s time to cash in on his talents.
Frankie is immediately propositioned by Maggie, a local waitress who wants to be a world champion boxer. She’s looking for a trainer, and wants Frankie to be her trainer due to him being renowned as a trainer of champions. Frankie refuses, saying "I don’t train girls!" He tries to convince the female boxer to search elsewhere as he says there are plenty of trainers who are looking for talented women boxers, but she’s insistent that she wants him as her trainer.
She pays six months of dues at the Hit Pit, and begins training long hours there in hopes of getting Frankie’s attention. Frankie, more annoyed by her presence than anything, ignores the fact that she’s showing promise because she’s a girl. His assistant, Scrap, pays attention though and gives the girl pointers. Frankie finally does take notice, and begrudgingly agrees to become her trainer, but only long enough to show her the basics and then she needs to find a new manager. Willing to accept any help she can get from Frankie, Maggie agrees.
Frankie and Maggie train hard, and then Frankie pawns her off on another manager. Confused and hurt, Maggie goes with the new manager who sets her up with her first fight immediately. She doesn’t do so well in the match, and Frankie finally steps in and coaches her to a turn-around victory. Thus begins their real training relationship. Frankie gets her fight after fight and it turns out that she’s a natural, knocking most of her opponents out in the first round (sometimes within the first few seconds)! He puts her in a higher division, and she wins easily there too.
Title shots start coming in, but Frankie repeats his past by turning the shots down saying Maggie needs more time, but finally takes her to Europe to fight many of their champions, who she beats all of them. She then gets her shot at the World Weterweight championship match against a notorious dirty fighter.
"Million Dollar Baby" is possibly the best boxing movie I’ve ever seen (and there have been a lot of great ones)! Everything about this movie is perfection! The acting is intense and heartfelt, having me on the edge of my seat to see what would happen next. I cheered when Maggie beat her first opponent in mere seconds, and I was on the verge of tears when she ended up in the hospital.
This movie runs the emotional gambit from intense drama to laugh-out-loud moments of surprisingly hilarious wit. The film did a great job of making me root for the good guys, and hate Maggie’s hick family (while also feeling a sense of pity for them).
The music and editing of the film work well with the brilliant acting to enforce the raw emotions of each scene, and the fighting scenes were a lot of fun to watch (even if many of them were very short lived thanks to Maggie’s surprisingly expert prowess).
If you haven’t seen "Million Dollar Baby" yet, you really need to add it to your Netflix queue as soon as possible. Do not wait a moment longer before renting this stunningly beautiful boxing film that rivals other greats like "Rocky", "Raging Bull" and "The Fighter".
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