HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Million Dollar Baby 10 Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray Review
HTS Overall Score:69
I want to ask all of you one simple question, and I’d like you to think about it for a minute or so before reading on. How many of you have had something that you truly loved. Something that you did, or do, or experienced that made you truly happy. It doesn’t have to be a prize fight, it can be as simple as fixing computers, tinkering with old radios, playing a game with your family, or reading into all hours of the night, until your fingers get cramped and your eyes strain to see the words on the page. That one thing that you were good at, that made you happy, even if you weren’t Bill gates, or Neil Gaiman, or Sugar Ray. It made you happy while doing it and you felt a sense of satisfaction. “Million Dollar Baby” is one of those stories that was raved about by critics and fans alike, Clint Eastwood is a personal hero of mine for many reasons, but he’s also one of the few actors that I will own every movie he’s ever been in, even the ones I wasn’t even that fond of. Unfortunately I never picked up this gem until recently. So you can imagine that sense of shock that came over my face when I finished the movie and asked myself “why in tarnation have I not seen this before?!”. A movie about winning, and losing, doing what you love and never giving up is a dime a dozen. What Clint Eastwood does here is paint a picture of life, pure, raw and beautiful at the same time, full of joys, full of pain and full of people who are just as raw, and just as joyful and just as sorrowful as the film depicts.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet here, some movies you can talk about for hours and you don’t really spoil anything, however, this movie is not one of those, I’m almost hesitant to right anything at all and just say “watch it without knowing anything”, and in all honesty that’s probably the best way to approach this movie if you’ve never seen it before. Knowing less gives this film an impact that no amount of preparation will truly soften the blow of. BUT, since this is a review I’ll explain just a little. Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), is a boxing trainer who seems like he’s lost his steam. His greatest fighter has just left him to pursue a manager that is willing to take risks and get him to the top and Frankie just doesn’t have it in himself to do that anymore. He’s seen too much and experienced too much loss and has settled into a life of “safeness”, refusing to take the risks that will allow his fighters to truly succeed, trapped in fear of making a mistake. All of this changes when he meets the most stubborn girl that he’s ever run across, in the form of a soft spoken, horrible boxing wannabee waitress named Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank). Not wanting to train a girl, Frankie brushes off her requests for training time and time again, until he finally just gets fed up and agrees to train her, changing his life forever.
Maggie isn’t exactly the greatest fighter, or even the greatest at anything. She’s self-proclaimed “white trash” and has been in a dead end rut for over 15 years. The only thing that makes her feel any respite from the crushing pains of life is going to the gym and working at boxing, for those hours the stress and pain of life just melts away and she’s able to lose herself in that serenity. With Frankie’s help she begins to get better and soon enough she’s able to win her first fight. In fact she wins a LOT more than just that one fight. In a matter of months she’s now taking down fighter after fighter in the first round and making quite a name for herself, she’s defied the odds and is looking down on life at the top of the world.
Now, I’m going to stop, for anymore in the story will give away a key plot point that will ruin the entire 3rd act. Needless to say Clint Eastwood masterfully sets up the story with a fantastic build, that keeps the audience on the tips of their toes and then, with one flick of his wrist, pulls the rug out from underneath you and leaves the viewer with this look of stunned shock on their faces as that right hook comes out of nowhere and leaves you on the floor with this sick feeling of being gut punched.
I’m usually not a fan of Hillary Swank, but here she loses herself into the role of Maggie, playing a girl who’s been beaten over the head by life, but still manages to cling to that dream no matter the consequences, leaving me to wonder why I didn’t like her before. Clint is just as memorable, slipping seamlessly into that craggy, rough old man role that he does so well, but giving you just a glimmer of softness and vulnerability that keeps you digging deeper, just trying to see what kind of man he truly is. Morgan Freeman can do no wrong, and even in a supporting role like he is here, he is a show stealer and an asset to the film in more ways than one. I do have to say that while I LOATHE Jay Baruchel in most roles I actually saw him here in a role that is both excellently done, and heartwarming at the same time, something you usually don’t see him capable of portraying. All of this I have to lay at the hands of Clint Eastwood who molds and shapes the film in a way that leaves the viewer in constant motion, never allowing them to become too complacent and keeps just enough of his cards hidden, so that when it’s time to be surprised, you REALLY are surprised.
Now, this is actually the closest to being a 5 star movie as it can possibly get, but there was just a few minutes of the film that dropped it from a perfect 5/5 down to a 4.5/5 and for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I implore you to NOT click on the spoiler tag below, for if you do enough of the ending is given away in my explanation of the half point drop to truly be a detriment to first time viewers. Those of you who HAVE seen the movie are welcome to click on the spoiler though.
Rated PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14409[/img]Here’s the sad part of all of this. The 2.39:1 AVC encode is actually the EXACT same transfer as the original pressing of the film back in the early days of the format wars. It’s identical down to the same bits and bytes and suffers from the same lackluster presentation that given to us years ago. I was hoping that Warner would re master the film, especially one that won 4 academy awards and is so highly prized among fans, but sadly that is not the case. The blacks are mushy and have a lot of black crush and the detail in the film suffers from a lot of softness and a sort of smeared look to them. Contrasts and skin tones look all right, but the main problem is an out dated master and a lot of compression issues that date back to the format wars when titles were getting rushed out and basically ports of the HD DVD copies. While it may have been disappointing back then, it’s even more disappointing today to see a great film like this suffer from such a lackluster presentation.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14410[/img]While the video encode is still the same recycled transfer, the audio has been upgraded a bit to a lossless DTS-HD MA track from the old 640kbps lossy Dolby Digital track of the original release and here we see a substantial upgrade. The track has a lot more life to it, with some more weighty dynamic range and a feeling of being a bit “fuller” than its old lossy encoding. The dialogue is always spot on perfect and locked to the center channel, but the limitations of the track are still there. The surrounds aren’t used as well as I would have liked and the film tends to stay front loaded with a mild amount of LFE thrown in. The LFE is solid and impactful, especially on the blows and the final fight with the East German champion, but relatively subdued for most of the movie. It does what it sets out to do quite nicely, but just isn’t one of those tracks that is going to wow the listener with thunderous LFE and total immersion.
• Commentary with Producer Albert Ruddy ---New
• "Million Dollar Baby" On the Ropes ---New
• James Lipton Takes on Three
• Born to Fight
• Producers Round 15
“Million Dollar Baby” isn’t your typical happy go lucky, paint by the numbers film, but one that shows us that life isn’t one big happy ending, but an experience, one where we have ups, and ones where we have downs, and that the most important part of it is savoring those good times as if they were our very last. To truly suck out the marrow of those good experiences and live your life to the fullest, for there are no guarantees in life, and those happy moments may not last forever, but each one of those happy moments is a gift to be treasured. While I would normally say to upgrade the disc from such a poor showing from the original release, but with only 2 new features, and no upgrade in video I would say that it’s a personal choice whether it’s worth the upgrade or not. For those who DON’T own the film, this is most definitely the definitive version at the moment and the one to get. Definitely a thumbs up from me for the movie itself, and a must see.
Starring: Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Paul Haggis
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0
Studio: Warner Brothers
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 4th, 2014
Buy Million Dollar Baby 10th Anniversary Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!
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