Despondent over a painful estrangement from his daughter, trainer Frankie Dunn isn't prepared for boxer Maggie Fitzgerald to enter his life. But Maggie's determined to go pro and to convince Dunn and his cohort to help her.
***Female “Rocky” with a downbeat and contradictory close*** Released in 2004 and directed by Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby” stars Eastwood as a cantankerous boxing trainer who owns a working class gym in Los Angeles, which is maintained by one of his former boxers, the narrator of the story (Morgan Freeman). A waitress from the sticks of Missouri (Hilary Swank) shows up and asks that Frankie (Eastwood) train her, which he refuses to do because she’s too old at 32 and he “doesn’t train girls,” probably because he had an unexplained falling out with his daughter years earlier. Eventually he begrudgingly agrees. The bulk of the film is basically a female version of “Rocky” (1976), except that I prefer the potent drama in this one. The three main characters are well fleshed-out with an all-around reverent tone, not to mention an occasional bit of mild amusement. Frankie and Maggie (Swank) slowly develop a father/daughter-type relationship and it’s touching. The third act, however, takes a left turn that is seriously downbeat. It departs from sports movie formula with a message that contradicts everything the first two acts pushed, which is inexplicable. Sure, I ‘get’ the point: A certain person basically sacrifices everything to do what’s (supposedly) best for the situation and honor the will of a dearly loved soul. Nevertheless, it’s a dark turn that leaves a sour taste because it refutes the positive message of the first two-thirds of the story. The film runs 2 hours, 12 minutes and was shot in Los Angeles. GRADE: B-/C+