Million Dollar Baby has good things in it: Hilary Swank is wonderful, spirited, huge-hearted; if you have to break my heart by breaking someone, she's just perfect. And if you have to paper a film full of voiceover narration, you can do worse than Morgan Freeman's slow-measured voice. It's a voice so authoritative you often forget that what you're hearing can be pretentious drivel, plus he has a scene where he dons a pair of gloves that for me is the highlight of the movie.
I do have problems with many of the details. David Walsh points out that in that scene with the mother, it's 1) hard to believe that anyone could be that much of a bitch that she would put down a house and lot free and clear and the daughter's profession that bought that house, and 2) hard to believe even if she is that much of a bitch, she can be so dumb that she would prefer a rinky-dink welfare check to a house and lot, free and clear.
Walsh attributes it to contempt of the lower classes; I'd say it was more a failure of observation of the lower classes, in a rather strained attempt to make Swank more sympathetic.
In the penultimate fight scene, we know going in that the ex-prostitute fights dirty, we presume Swank's watched the video of the ex-hooker's former fights, yet Swank goes right into battle seemingly innocent of the girl's dirty tactics, nor does Eastwood have any concrete strategy to deal with her. I remember seeing the girl attack an opponent when she was down or from behind on TV, and I for one, having seen that, would never leave my back exposed, or let my guard down at any time.
Beyond that, it seems unbelievable that this would be the first time Swank dealt with anyone who used dirty tactics; surely she'd have dealt with someone like that before in her rise up, and learned to deal with it accordingly; at the very least Eastwood should know about it and train her accordingly.
Might as well point out here that the boxing circles depicted in this film are surprisingly clean--no bookies, no crooked deals, and while the managers and agents look sleazy, they don't actually do anything sleazy, like maybe try cop a feel off Swank's ass. Walsh also said something to this effect.
Finally (SPOILERS) the death. Eastwood walks into what looks like the darkest corridor in hospital building history (I've seen hospitals in the poorest corners of Manila that are better lit), lugging a bag fullof adrenaline (where did he get that?), detaches a respirator and leaves it off, injects her with a lethal dosage (why take her off the respirator then?) that he's not worried would show up at an autopsy, and takes his sweet time while the monitors scream out flatline readings.
Also, first time I've ever heard of an American hospital where the nurse's desk didn't respond to a code blue, coffee break or no coffee break (the nurse who took the break was talking to someone, so the desk was manned). Worse of all, there's no sign that Eastwood gets investigated after all the shenanigans. Was Eastwood right to have had her checked in in that place? Someone should have been sued, big time. Plus, injecting a bubble of air would have been simpler, harder to trace, and just as painless--remember she can't feel anything from the neck down. Someone's not up to his euthanasia research.
Other than that--yeah, it's entertaining, solid, meat-and-potatoes filmmaking. Not my favorite of the year, though, not by a long shot, I still don't think Eastwood's a filmmaker, and I sure as hell don't think he's an actor. Freeman and Hackman might have been a better choice--hell, their moment together was one of the best things in Unforgiven.