Million Dollar Baby | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Million Dollar Baby

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For all his grace and precision as a director, Clint Eastwood (like Martin Scorsese) operates at the mercy of his scripts. But this time he's got a terrific one, an unorthodox love story and religious parable adapted by Paul Haggis from stories in F.X. Toole's Rope Burns. Eastwood plays a gym owner who reluctantly agrees to train and manage a 31-year-old hillbilly woman (Hilary Swank) who wants to box, while Morgan Freeman, as an ex-fighter who helps him out, supplies the voice-over narration. Eventually this leads to a few awkward point-of-view issues, but the past-tense narration enhances the sense of fatality. Haggis's dialogue is worthy of Hemingway, and the three leads border on perfection. As grim as The Set-Up (1948) and Fat City (1972), as dark and moody as The Hustler and Bird, this may break your heart. PG-13, 132 min. River East 21.

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