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6 Stars: Maggie May,
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is "the best cut man in the business' intones the narrator, Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby." Frankie can clean up a cut in seconds so that a fighter can get back in the ring and at the very least finish the fight and at best, win.
Yet Frankie can't heal the emotional wounds of his life even though he spends 365 days a year at Mass and writes letters to his estranged daughter every day asking for, I assume forgiveness. But the letters come back marked "Return to Sender" and Frankie files them away in a box and his life returns to the needs and wants of his Gym for Boxers and to his best friend, confidant and former fighter, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman).
And then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into Frankie's Gym, pays her Gym dues for six months and asks Frankie every day to train her. And everyday he turns her down: "you're too old, too skinny...and you're a girl," he says.
Until one day she wears him down, he concedes to her wishes and there begins a Cinderella story of fights won, money earned and glory attained. And then it's all taken away.
Eastwood has made some great, even unforgettable films: "The Unforgiven, "Bird" to name a couple. But he has done nothing to match the guts, emotional power and poignancy of "Million Dollar Baby." And Hillary Swank, pretty much floundering after "Boys Don't Cry," is as sunny, thoughtful and real as she's ever been.
There is a scene towards the end of "MDB" between Frankie and Maggie in which Frankie explains the meaning of a Gaelic nickname that he has given Maggie that grabs at your heart and is so beautifully realized that you are galvanized with emotion. It's so real and so true to the tone of the film that you can't help but gasp.
"Million Dollar Baby" is Eastwood at his most emotionally aware and naked. This film comes from the deepest areas of Eastwood's heart and soul. It is a brave and honest film from one of the best purveyors of our Hopes and Dreams.