Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Paul Haggis
Based on stories by F.X. Toole
Million Dollar Baby is not about boxing. It is an engaging film about relationships and responsibilities among characters whose lives intersect in the world of boxing. While it begins with familiar motifs from boxing films, the story veers off and becomes a serious drama about moral issues.
Clint plays Frankie Dunn, a cut man and boxing manager for many years. His great skills in the corner are evident in the opening moments of the film when he tells his man to take a punch, allowing the opponent’s punches to close up a wound that is bleeding badly.
Frankie’s hottest prospect, Big Willie Little, has been itching for a shot at the title but Frankie tells him he’ll “ be ready in two years,” which is what he told him two years ago. Frankie’s reluctance stems from the guilt he carries when he worked the corner for a boxer who took a title fight against the wishes of his manager and sustained career-ending injuries. Big Willie Little is getting older and can’t wait any longer, so he leaves Frankie for a manager who will get him title shot.
One day into Frankie’s gym comes Maggie Fitzgerald, played by Hillary Swank. She boxes because it is the only thing that brings her solace. She moved out to Los Angeles from Missouri, but the odds are stacked against her because she isn’t very good and is in her early 30’s, which is a late age to start. She works as a waitress and is so poor that she takes home customers’ leftovers to eat; yet she is driven to follow her dream. She wants Frankie to manage her and tells him that she is tough, but Frankie tells her, “Girlie, tough ain’t enough.” However, since she has paid six months in advance, he allows her stay at the gym because his financial situation isn’t much better.