Eastwood, Swank deliver knockout performances in ‘Million Dollar Baby’

Christy Smallman

Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood delivers a first round knockout with “Million Dollar Baby,” in theaters now from Warner Brothers.

At first glance, this movie seems to be another predictable drama about a girl’s fight to achieve her dream – very Rocky-esque if you will. However, as the events unfold you find that you may be getting more than you bargained for.

Eastwood, who received a Golden Globe for best director for this film, plays the hard-shelled, gritty gym owner Frankie Dunn. He is a no- nonsense boxing trainer who wants absolutely nothing to do with training Maggie Fitzgerald [played by Hilary Swank] a 31-year-old hillbilly with a boxing dream. The stubborn Maggie has not been given anything in her life and does not expect any charity. Swank is brilliant, emitting the perfect mixture of white trash attitude with a drive and determination that you cannot help but respect.

The story is narrated by the familiar, soothing voice of Morgan Freeman, who plays an old washed-up boxer, Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris. Eddie is the gym caretaker and lives in a small room in the back. He serves as the perfect mediator between Maggie and Frankie.

Maggie trains constantly on her own, proving to the skeptic Frankie that her dedication is true, and eventually winning his expertise as her trainer. Frankie has a tough exterior with just enough of a soft side to make you adore him.

With the help of the has-been trainer, Maggie advances through the world of women’s boxing. Frankie forms a bond with Maggie as he deals with the estrangement of his own daughter.

The emotional connection between the two brings the movie beyond being about a simple athletic competition. It evolves into much more than that – a story about two lonely souls who find a companion in each other. Just when you may think you’ve predicted the ending of the film, one cheap shot changes everything.

Eastwood and Swank do an amazing job in creating a believable relationship between these two unlikely characters. Swank shines without overplaying the strong-minded, self-sufficient woman who refuses to give up on her dream. In turn she received a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a drama.

“Million Dollar Baby” is a story about dedication and passion with an unexpected left hook of loss, love and emotion.