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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You really can't say anything bad about this movie how it looks or gets acted out by its actors but the story is not always handled well, which makes "Million Dollar Baby" a still good, though flawed movie.

Thing that is very obvious about this movie is that it got made to be dramatic and to emote. This can already be seen in the movie its visual style, which is very dark and depressing but also in the way the story gets handled. It gets build-up in such a way that you simply know that things are bound to go badly after a while. It's all a bit too obvious, which causes the movie to not really feel and flow very naturally. Everyone has a sad past haunting them and it's not like things are getting better for them during the cause of this movie.

It's build-up was really the biggest problem I had with this movie. Not only does it feel forced, it's also quite lacking at times. I'm not just talking about its drama but also its story just in general. Things just happen in this movie, without really a natural flow to it. This can mostly be seen back in its boxing sequences. There is no real good build-up to any of them and I therefore also couldn't really get into them neither, which is something a lot of modern sport movie suffer from by the way. Guess film-makers need to re-watch the Rocky movies a couple of times before they start making their movie.

But it's true that this is of course not just a boxing movie. For me the movie also truly began half way through, after the big twist had happened. Not that it's really a big twist now anymore, I mean, basically everybody already knows what it is but at the time this movie got released it still was a surprise for most people, who were expecting to see a drama/sports movie about boxing. You have to really give the movie credit for keeping the general crowd in the dark for so long and also avoid things getting leaked about its premise prematurely.

It's quite impossible to not talk about it in a review, since it features such an ultimately import part of the movie and its story. I'm therefore also going to talk about it, so people who still have no idea what the 'twist' of this movie is and want to remain spoiler free should stop reading now.

Thing were the movie its controversy came from was that it was handling a very delicate and not much talked about theme of euthanasia, after the main character got seriously injured in a boxing 'accident'. I totally respect the movie for opening the debate about it at the time and for having the guts to do so, after all, not a lot of film-makers would had dared to make such a movie. But again, I also don't think this got handled particularly well. Really, it came quite out of the blue that the Hilary Swank character suddenly wanted to stop living. Before that point she didn't really came across like she was unbearably suffering or totally depressed about her situation. She got paralyzed from the neck down but she was still cracking jokes and showing her fighting spirit. In that regard it feels like she suddenly gave up way too easily and also way too soon. It just didn't feel very naturally or realistic at all.

But that's not the only thing that didn't feel very realistic or naturally. Stuff like the father/daughter surrogate type of relationship between the Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood character, it all was put on a bit too thick for my taste and in my opinion. Same goes for the hillbilly type of family-members of the Hilary Swank character, who couldn't care less about her situation and were only thinking about themselves. It was so over-the-top and silly that it actually came across as unintentionally funny at times for me.

Now, I know like I'm making it sound like I totally hated this movie but that obviously was not the case. It could still respect it and appreciate it. It still was a well put together movie, despite not having the best build-up and handling of its drama. It's still very obvious while watching this movie what a great director Clint Eastwood actually is.

But next to directing, he also played a big role in the movie, which also is something I just can't complain about, even though he was basicly growling a lot but that's what he has always been good at. But to me the biggest star of the movie still was Morgan Freeman, who gave the best, most humble and most realistic performance out of the entire movie. It also earned him his first and as of yet still only Oscar. Another Oscar went to Hilary Swank for her performance in this movie, which I can also agree on.

Another thing I also really liked was the little subtle musical score, also composed by Clint Eastwood. Is there anything that this guy can't do? Dying is apparently one of them, since he is still alive and active as ever before in the industry, even though he is well in his 80's by now.

Everything about this movie screams and shouts drama a bit too hard at you, which caused me to be really taken by all of it and did not made this movie the most realistic or genuinely emotional genre movie I have ever seen.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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