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Monday, February 07, 2005

Jon Breen


I finally saw Million Dollar Baby, the Clint Eastwood film being hailed as a potential classic. Were it not for the director, the cast, and the glowing reviews, my wife and I probably would have given it a miss. Neither of us are fond of boxing, and (call me sexist) the idea of women boxing is particularly repellent to me. To my surprise, though, I came out of the film with the urge to defend boxing, which brutal as it is I can’t believe is quite as awful as the movie made it out.

Without giving away too much of the story (and there’s been much controversy about the reviewers’ near unanimous decision not to reveal the assisted-suicide subject matter), let’s just say there is a fight in which one of the participants is a blatantly dirty fighter. Now, of course, a movie has to exaggerate dramatic events in sports contests to make sure everybody in the audience gets it. (Example from years ago: compare the jostling incident experienced by distance runner Billy Mills in the Olympics with the recreation of it in the movie version—can’t remember the title—with Robby Benson as Mills.) But I feel quite sure, first, that a fighter who operated in this particular way would have lost her license before this fight even took place, would have been disqualified from this fight before the key incident took place, would have been declared the loser after the key incident took place, and would have faced criminal assault charges, been the object of a personal injury suit, and been stripped of the license she should have lost already. If any of this happened, the movie doesn’t make it clear. The film is ultimately, among other things, an indictment of boxing, but it could make the point and still play fair.

Yes, Million Dollar Baby is a very good film, and Eastwood, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman are all great in their roles. But I think Mystic River remains the highpoint of Eastwood’s directorial career.

Jon Breen


Blogger steve said...

Jon is right, as usual. Someone needs to find him a lucrative gig reviewing movies. We need someone with his taste and acumen out there, especially now that Stephen Hunter appears to have stopped doing reviewing on a regular basis.

February 7, 2005 at 7:24 PM  

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