2004 Running time: 132 Certificate: 12 Rating: 5

Synopsis

Clint Eastwood turns a tired genre on its head with an Oscar-winning boxing tale that delivers a knockout blow to expectations. Hilary Swank deservedly won the Best Actress Academy Award for her steely portrayal of Maggie, a trailer trash waitress who discovers her true vocation in the boxing ring. Initially turned down by old-school trainer Frankie (Eastwood), she gradually wins his respect after being given a chance by his trusty assistant Scrap (Morgan Freeman). But who knows how fate will mark her card?

Director

  • Clint Eastwood

Cast

  • Clint Eastwood

  • Hilary Swank

  • Morgan Freeman

Review

Boxing isn't for the faint-hearted. And, some would have it, it's not a sport for girls. Especially girls who are over thirty.

Trainer Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) is one of these. He's used to dealing with working class boys faced with few other options than a life in the ring.

So when he's collared by thirty-something Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) he immediately rejects her request to spar in his gym under his expert eye.

However, her persistence pays off when Frankie's grizzled assistant Scrap (Freeman) looks the other way when she turns up after the gym's closed for the day.

Frankie - burdened with hurt from an estranged daughter who keeps returning his letters - initially ignores Maggie until her dogged talent wins him over.

You'd be forgiven for thinking you've seen all this before. And you'd probably be right.

However, what maintains the interest is the skill in which Eastwood constructs the characters - he and Freeman are as comfortable together as a pair of old boxing gloves.

Swank, too, impresses as a trailer trash waitress - "my dad is dead and my mom weighs 312lbs" - forced to scavenge leftovers from customers' plates.

However, Eastwood is only building up to a stunning narrative coup that punches cosy expectations clean out of the ring.

Unlike other, routine boxing sagas, this is really about people not punches.

The stubborn Maggie's growth in the husky curmudgeon's affections has little to do with her success in the ring than two loners coming together - Frankie's the father she never had and she's the daughter Frankie wishes he had.

Spicing things up is a nice line in comedy; Eastwood displays a talent for dry one-liners while the tone is lightened by a hopeless boxer who can't work out how you get iced water into a bottle.

Turning the conventions of the boxing movie inside out, this sees Eastwood - as actor and director - at the top of his game.

Absolutely knockout.

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