Thursday, February 17, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Reviewed by a Guy Who Never Even Saw The Flick

Boxing movies just don’t seem to be as big a staple in Hollywood as teen horror flicks, so leave it to director Clint Eastwood to tackle this underrepresented sector of film-making. Going up against such “heavyweights” as “The Great White Hope”, “Raging Bull” and “Rocky”, this movie certainly has it’s work cut out for it. Especially with that image of Burgess Meredith as “Mick” in the Rocky films screaming, “You’re gonna to eat lightning and you’re gonna to crap thunder”. Just how’re you going to top “thunder-crapping”? “Every Which Way But Loose” came close because you just can’t beat primates when it comes to crap. But, if you throw in Hilary Swank to go for the body, Morgan Freeman to go for the head and Clint Eastwood to count them out, now you’ve got a triple threat of cinema terror. And what you get is a tightly constructed boxing film that fails to imitate any of its predecessors. Feature an ex-fighter who runs a gym in Los Angeles along with a fellow former boxer being approached by a young woman determined to beat the hell out of the next person calling her a hillbilly and THAT’S pay-for-view worth watching.

The movie begins with trainer (Frankie/Eastwood) lamenting the loss of his star fighter to big time boxing promoter Don King. Adhering to his life long credo that “Big Boys Don’t Cry”, his life is further complicated when he refuses to train another young boxer (Maggie/Hilary) once he realizes she is just pretending to be guy. Conditioned to consider the phrase “you hit like a girl” an insult, Frankie finds his entire value system turned on its ear as “one-eyed” Eddie/Morgan consents to train Maggie and discovers her potent right-hook and devastating ear-biting skills. After observing Maggie in action, Frankie sees the same “Eye-of-the Tiger” in her as he once saw in Eddie, and agrees to train her, too.

Out of his remaining “good” eye, Eddie can see her dogged determination and is mutually motivated to help her overcome her stereotypical image as just one more piece of societal rubbish. But failing to be able to see anything out of his other eye leads to him (as well as the entire audience) into being blindsided by the hard left hook this movie delivers in the end, pummeling everyone as every unpredictable twist possible manifests itself. In fact the only thing that DOESN’T happen are monkeys flying out of Eastwood’s butt, but that’s only because they probably couldn’t get out his hiked up waistband.

Despite the emotional maze this film leads the audience through, Eastwood blows away the competition like Dirty Harry on crack, taking his rightful place as one the most influential directors of our time. And even though he’ll remain forever unforgiven for that “Firefox” fiasco, this film represents the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding the sport of boxing.

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