If you've seen the trailers for Million Dollar Baby, you probably think it looks like Karate Kid vs Girlfight, the story of a 30-something waitress who wants to train as a boxer, and eventually takes over the world. But while you may walk into the cinema thinking you're about to see a hackneyed retelling, I promise you that you will not leave thinking that.
The story follows Swank's character as she trains with an ageing boxing trainer (Eastwood) in an attempt to become a champion female boxer. The story is deliberately slow-paced and directed in Clint's wonderfully old-fashioned style, allowing the audience to spend time with the characters and really feel their emotional depth. Lots of sports films make the mistake of not actually showing very much of the sporting action, but that's not the case here, with many scenes dwelling on boxing technique and training, as well as bouts in the ring.
All of which makes for a good film that is squarely centred on its characters and the sport of boxing – that is until the last half an hour, when the story takes and abrupt and unexpected turn, transforming it from a good film to a great one. If watching any of Clint's twenty-five previous outings as a director has taught us anything, it's that from Play Misty For Me to Mystic River, Clint does not do light-hearted.
If his films have one strength (and I think they have more than one) it's that they tackle issues that are often avoided in a way that is incredibly emotional, without transparently forcing the feelings upon the viewer. For example, seeing Clint break down in tears after 50 years of playing a grizzled hard case is about as big an emotional weapon as Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum.
Every so often a film comes along that is so moving and powerful, that people are put off seeing it by the heaviness of the subject matter. That should not be the case with Million Dollar Baby – the acting, direction and storyline are all superb, and the result is a film that is not only a pleasure to watch, but one that will stay with you for a long