January 12, 2005

Million Dollar Baby = Rocky and Shawshank Redemption


First let me say, if you plan on seeing this movie, you may want to stop reading this right now. This review will contain spoilers, plot twist, and my overall analysis of this Movie.

Million Dollar Baby is Clint Eastwood’s latest film that is like an updated version of Rocky and Shawshank Redemption in one, except the boxer in this movie is a female. It is no secret that Rocky’s success at the box office was due in part to the racial overtone of the movie. Rocky gave white folk in film what they could not and did not have in the real world; a white male Boxing champion that could beat the Black male Boxing Champion. Rocky played by Sylvester Stallone rose from obscurity and financial ruin to become the boxing champion of the world beating Apollo Creed played by Carl Weathers in Rocky I and Rocky II. In Rocky III, Rocky again does the impossible by beating Clubber Lang, the big mouth bad ass played by MR.T. If there was any doubt that Rocky was a film with contemporary social commentary being played out by actors, all doubt was removed when Rocky IV was released. Rocky IV was released during the height of the Cold War; after having Rocky beat America’s (white folk) internal enemy (the Black man) in the first three Rocky movies; the makers of the Rocky franchise turn their attention to the external enemy of the day; Russia. In adding insult to injury in regards to the Black Champion (and Black people in general), the makers of the movie franchise one upped their white champion by not only having the Russian beat the Black Champion easily but killing him during the process, only to have his death avenged by non other than Rocky, the Italian stallion.

Million Dollar Baby does not go as far as the Rocky franchise did, in fact I would say that the aim and ultimate goal of this movie was not one bit close to that of the Rocky franchise but the end result regardless of aim or intention was that they produced a film similar in many ways to the Rocky Films. The Million Dollar Baby is played by Hilary Swank whose character is named Maggie Fitzgerald. Much like Rocky, Maggie is in financial ruins; her family is trailer trash (in the literal sense) and her mother commits welfare fraud. Maggie is as far from being a champion fighter as one can be. However, with a little training by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) who in the beginning did not want to train her, she rose from obscurity like Rocky to face non other than the Black boxing champion. Up until this point this movie will have the viewer thinking, how can this be a great movie, this is nothing more than a female Rocky movie, and just as you are thinking this, the movie takes a turn that no one expects. Before I get into that, let me tell you about some of the other characters and plots in the movie.

Morgan Freeman plays Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris; a boxer who day has long passed and is now nothing more than a washed up has been who is a janitor for Frankie Dunn boxing gym. Morgan Freeman role is almost similar to all the other magical Negro roles Hollywood have given us, while he posses no special powers he does have great insight into boxing and how Frankie Dunn thinks. Morgan Freeman narrates this movie just like he did in Shawshank Redemption, so many times I was waiting for him to say “get busy living, or get busy dying”. Also in this movie Mike Colter (a brother) who plays Big Willie Little, Frankie Dunn’s ticket to the championship. Frankie Dunn has one big problem; he procrastinates and hold boxers back, thus prompting this brother to leave him after having taught him everything he knows and got him one fight from the title. This of course makes the brother appear to be ungrateful for all that Frankie has done for him (a point reinforced later in the movie), never the less, the brother goes and fight the champion whom Frankie thought he was not ready to fight and beats the guy and becomes the champion. Later on in the movie, when Maggie (the female boxer) was ready to fight the female champion Frankie is still procrastinating, which sends Morgan Freeman character into action and by doing so adds clarity as to why Big Willie left Frankie. Morgan Freeman takes the female boxer out to dinner and just so happen the promoter who got Big Willie the Championship fight walks in the diner, and his arrival sparks Morgan Freeman to basically tell Maggie it is time to make a choice, do she stay with Frankie or go with this guy who can get her the big fight and the money. Unlike the ungrateful Black boxer, she tells the promoter to go to hell and that she is staying with Frankie Dunn thus reinforcing the ungratefulness of the Black Boxer.

Getting back to Maggie fighting the Black female Boxing champion where I said most people would be thinking this is Rocky all over again. The Black female Champion (Billie The Blue Bear) is played by a real female boxer named Lucia Rijker. Lucia character is just like MR.T character from Rocky III. She is a dirty fighter, she cheats by using her elbows, by grabbing and throwing her opponent just as MR.T did and she hits her opponents when they are down. Maggie as I said was doing the impossible just like Rocky did, she was beating the champion when this movie takes a twist no one expects( I remind you for the last time, if you plan on seeing this movie do not ready past this point.). After the bell rings ending the third round and the boxers were headed back to their corners, Maggie took her eye off of her opponent (the Black champion), violating the number one rule of boxing “always protect yourself”. As Maggie was walking towards her corner, the champion punched her knocking her off her feet, and just so happen her manager had put the stool in the ring and as luck would have it, Maggie fell on the stool neck first, paralyzing her from the neck down. From this point on, this movie becomes a sob story of Clint Eastwood first blaming Morgan Freeman for what happen being that Morgan Freeman is the one who pushed Clint to train the woman. Later on Clint apologizes saying he was wrong for Blaming Freeman. Maggie never walks again and spends the rest of her days in bed, where she starts to get bed sores which eventually lead to her loosing one of her legs. The part of the movie that is winning over the critics I believe is when Maggie asks Frankie Dunn to do for her what her father did for someone, and that is kill her so that she do not have to suffer laying there in bed. Frankie says no and she gives this whole speech about how she rose from obscurity, to see the world and have thousands of people chanting her name. In what some will say is the most moving part of the movie she says to Frankie Dunn, “Don’t let me sit here suffering until I can’t hear those people chanting my name anymore”. This is the most powerful moment in the movie and clearly is what making the critics love it. Frankie eventually disconnects the machines and she dies.

I have seen many Award wining movies and I can say, this movie should not win one award. There was not any great acting in this movie and all the buzz this movie is getting is being driven by this movie appealing to the viewers’ emotions. This is basically a movie about an underdog, from poor beginnings who becomes a good boxer against all odds (read reality) and then has that tragically taken away from her by a dirty and brutal Black woman. The second half of Million Dollar Baby is what distinguishes it from other underdog movies but to get to that point, you will have to sit through Rocky V, and another magical servant Negro Role played by Morgan Freeman not to mention Clint Eastwood saying to himself after Maggie knocked the Black Female Champion down “stay down Bitch”. If this movie should win anything it should win best adaptation of a franchised movie (Rocky) and most unoriginal movie plot by having Morgan Freeman narrate this movie just as he did Shawshank Redemption.


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