Clint Eastwood is 74. If he keeps on making movies as terrific as last year's Mystic River and this beauty, here's hoping he works until he reaches his centennial, or even longer.
He both directs and stars in Million Dollar Baby, a deceptively simple story about a tough boxing coach (Eastwood) in Los Angeles who reluctantly agrees to train a 31-year-old waitress (Swank). She reckons success in the ring is her only hope of leaving behind her no-account family back in Hicksville. These two lonely people bond, forming a quasi-father-daughter relationship, and then something awful happens that will test both mightily and turn Million into a deeply affecting film about faith, love and questioning what is right. To label it a boxing movie would be like saying bouillabaisse is fish soup; if s accurate but doesn't begin to do it justice.
Onscreen, Eastwood is solid as granite, getting maximum effect by doing the minimum required in a scene but doing it with precisely the right inflection or look. Swank is sensational, proving her breakout turn in Boys Don't Cry was no fluke. Freeman, as Eastwood's helper at the gym, is also first-rate. Watch for a lovely scene between Freeman and Eastwood in which the two joke about the holes in the former's socks. It could have gone on forever and I'd have been happy. (PG-13)