Always one of America’s most undervalued directors, Clint Eastwood is proving himself the American cinema’s national treasure in the third act of his impressive career. Million Dollar Baby (2004), an understated, unpretentious, powerfully told drama, adapted from F.X. Toole stories by Paul Haggis, earned Eastwood his second round of Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture (his first was for Unforgiven), as well as Oscars for Best Actress Hilary Swank and Best Supporting Actor Morgan Freeman.
Eastwood stars as Frankie (Eastwood), a craggy old boxing trainer and gym owner who lost his family years ago and now loses his best fighter out of paternal caution. Swank is 31-year-old boxing hopeful Maggie, a dreamer who was lost by her sorry family a long ago. He reluctantly takes her on as a pupil and they slowly become one another’s family, creating a father-daughter bond far stronger than any blood ties. Freeman, who also narrates, is the gym’s caretaker Scrap, a retired boxer who has no regrets. Compassionate and affecting, the film became the center of a controversy which distracted from the film’s real message: the power of the families we create when blood abandons us, and the sacrifices we make for that love.
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The Blu-ray and DVD editions feature “James Lipton Takes on Three,” an interview with Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman conducted by James Lipton the day after the 2004 Academy Awards, the original featurettes “Born to Fight” (a look at the world of female boxing with the film’s cast and boxing advisor Lucia Rijker) and “Producers Round 15” (with producers Albert S. Ruddy and Tom Rosenberg and screenwriter/producer Paul Haggis), and the trailer. The 3-Disc Deluxe Edition also features the bonus CD soundtrack with Clint Eastwood’s score conducted by Lennie Niehaus.