Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 2004. Warner Bros., Lakeshore Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, Albert S. Ruddy Productions. Screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on the story collection Rope Burns by F.X. Toole. Cinematography by Tom Stern. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Paul Haggis, Tom Rosenberg, Albert S. Ruddy. Music by Clint Eastwood. Production Design by Henry Bumstead. Costume Design by Deborah Hopper. Film Editing by Joel Cox. Academy Awards 2004. AFI Awards 2004. Boston Film Critics Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004. National Board of Review Awards 2004. New York Film Critics Awards 2004.
It’s a cliché as old as the hills: aging mentor with a spotted past rejects the kid who wants to be a champ. The kid gets into the mentor’s crotchety little heart and ends up going the distance, and then life intervenes and suddenly it’s all about them bonding. You may think you’ve seen it all before, but Clint Eastwood‘s monumentally enthralling film proves that the old tales can still be shaken out and made to feel fresh again. Eastwood, in one of his best ever performances, plays an aging boxing manager who refuses to train a green young woman (Hilary Swank) who is dying to be a good prizefighter despite the drawbacks: she’s too old and has too little experience. With the help of Eastwood’s best friend and associate (Morgan Freeman), Swank eventually convinces the old yeller that a girl is worth his time and that she’s got what it takes to be a winner in the ring. Over the course of the two hours that follow, you enter the world of these exceptionally well-written characters and experience one of the most finely crafted movies about boxing ever made, joining the ranks of Body And Soul, Champion and Raging Bull for capturing the essence of the sport’s brutal violence as well as the tender personal stories behind it. The superbly photographed boxing scenes are exciting, but every time the characters stop to develop their stories it doesn’t slow the entertainment down one bit. Freeman hasn’t been this good since The Shawshank Redemption, stealing every scene with his sarcastic personality, while Swank finally makes good on her Oscar promise with a deeply felt performance that works on all levels, physically and emotionally.