Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Credit: Million Dollar Baby: Egon Endrenyi

I’m not sure what the statute of limitations on movie spoilers is, so if you’re still not hip to the big twist in Million Dollar Baby, you’d probably best skip this page and go read about The Nanny. At first, the film can’t help but feel like another one of those fuz-zy long-shot-makes-good sports flicks. Okay, let’s all watch the grizzled old trainer (Clint Eastwood) mold some raw female boxer (Hilary Swank) into a champion, sharing a few laughs and hugs along the way. But not unlike Muhammad Ali hoodwinking George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, the movie is simply playing possum — lulling you into a safe comfort zone before leveling you with the haymaker. The smiley, happy ending never comes, making this pugilist picture one of the most daring sports films ever.

Considerably less daring, however, are the bonus features on the DVD. The Eastwood-Swank-Freeman commentary track is excellent. . .in concept. Too bad it doesn’t actually exist. The three actors do sit down in one extra, but unfortunately, it’s for a morning-after-the-Oscars interview with James Lipton, who probes with queries like ”You must feel awfully good today?” and ”Tell me about acting with Hilary Swank, sir?” (The most interesting section occurs when Eastwood explains why he doesn’t yell ”Action!” at the start of a take: He feels it makes actors tense.) Two other features reveal how producer Albert Ruddy bought the film rights (he got Rope Burns author F.X. Toole drunk on martinis), and the ways in which the movie mirrors the real boxing world (fighter Lucia Rijker, one of Swank’s on-screen opponents, discusses the finer points of breaking people’s noses). But as with most boxing matches, you should forget the undercard and stick with the main event.

Million Dollar Baby
  • Movie
  • 132 minutes