Released a little over a year after the grand success of his Oscar-winning feature Mystic River, Clint Eastwood returns to the directors chair for Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood also stars in the role of Frankie Dunn, a down-on-his-luck former boxing manager who spends the twilight years of his life running a small, dilapidated gym in downtown Los Angeles.
Frankies previous career was blighted by an injury to one of his prize fighters, Scrap (Morgan Freeman), who lost the sight in his right eye during a particularly brutal bout; Scrap now wiles away the hours working as a cleaner in Frankies gym. Wary of similar occurrences being inflicted on the prestigious young talent that passes before him, Frankie lets a succession of great boxers slip through his fingers. But when the brash, confident young boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) strides into the gym, Frankies life is irretrievably altered.
Initially refusing to train Maggie due to her gender and age, Frankie relents when faced with her tenacity, spirit, and burning ambition. The combination of Maggies talent and Frankies tutelage paves the way for the adroit fighter to rise steadily through the ranks of womens boxing, with the unlikely coupling forming a genuinely touching bond in the process.
Clint Eastwood has crafted a boxing film fit to stand alongside classics such as Raging Bull and Rocky. The scenes between Eastwood and Freeman are a delight to watch, with the two old hands pulling off masterfully understated performances as a couple of men teetering on the brink of failure. Likewise, Swank puts in a powerful turn as Maggie, further emphasising her penchant for unusual roles, and perhaps even bettering her incredible, Oscar-winning showing as Teena Brandon in Boys Dont Cry.
Million Dollar Baby scooped a total of 4 Oscars at the 2005 Academy Award ceremony: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman).