Released in 2004, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director. To celebrate the film’s tenth anniversary, Warner Home Video has reissued the Blu-ray, having previously having previously released it in November 2006. Fans will be disappointed that despite over seven years of advancements in Blu-ray technology, the studio has chosen to use the same video transfer found on the earlier disc. All that is new is a lossless soundtrack and two new extras.
Waitress Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) freely labels herself and her family as “white trash.” Even so, the thirty-one year old has dreams beyond living in a trailer, and scrounging for food. Determined to become professional female boxer, she’s been training for months. Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) is a boxing trainer and manager. He runs a smalltime gym in Los Angeles called The Hit Pit. Frankie spends a lot of time hanging out there, talking to an old protégé Eddie ‘Scrap Irons’ Dupruis (Morgan Freeman), who he managed to take all the way to a title fight. Despite the fact that Frankie lost his last successful fighter to another manager, Maggie is convinced that he can take her to the top.
Frankie isn’t interested in training a girl. On top of that, he figures at thirty-one, Maggie is too old to really do much of anything in the sport. However, Scrap sees something he likes in Maggie, who is nothing if not persistent. With some prodding from Scrap, Frankie begrudgingly agrees to take her on, but places her with another manager. During her first fight, the manager fails to give Maggie the advice she needs to get back into the fight. He quits, leaving Frankie as her manager, and his advice allows Maggie to knock out her opponent almost immediately. Maggie quickly begins to climb the ranks of female boxing. However, events in the third act propels Maggie and Frankie’s destiny into a direction neither ever saw coming. It’s best not to say much more, for those who haven’t seen the film yet.
Clint Eastwood’s 25th directorial effort, Million Dollar Baby is one of his best. No shot is wasted, no plot point left hanging, and no dialogue unnecessary. Though Hilary Swank certainly delivered a memorable performance in Boys Don’t Cry—and rightfully won an Oscar for her work—as of today, Maggie Fitzgerald is the performance of her career. Her Oscar win was well deserved, as was Morgan Freeman’s. Eastwood’s ability to use a light, but responsive touch during the third act is masterful. A moving and ultimately humane film, despite having boxing at its center, Million Dollar Baby is a winning film.
Framed at 2.35:1, as I mentioned earlier, this is the same transfer used for the 2006 Blu-ray. Highly praised during the early days of high definition, obvious advancements have tempered things a bit. Even so, detail still appears strong, and black levels are impressive. Patches of background noise may be evident depending on the size of your display. Contrast levels are also on the lower end of things. Textures do come through nicely, but shadow detail is disappointing.
The new disc replaces the DD 5.1 track with a lossless track encoded as DTS-HD MA 5.1. Things are based in the center channel, and flows fairly well to the surrounds. Subtle ambient sounds are reproduced nicely, and a solid rumble accompanies Maggie’s bouts.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
New to the 10th Anniversary Edition:
- Million Dollar Baby: On the Ropes (HD, 26:04) This 10-year retrospective includes interviews with Producer Albert Ruddy, Screenwriter Paul Haggis, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank. They discuss the film’s initial development; Eastwood’s directing style, Swank’s physical training, and more. It’s interesting to hear them discuss the film all these years later.
- Commentary with Producer Albert Ruddy: Ruddy discusses the difficulties in getting the film made. He also discusses the script, working with Clint Eastwood, and some specific scenes.
- James Lipton Takes on Three (SD, 24:45) Lipton interviews Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank shortly after their Academy Award wins.
- Born to Fight (SD, 19:13) Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Lucia Rijker (Blue Bear), and Jay Baruchel (Danger) discuss the film’s characters, relationships and themes.
- The Producers: Round 15 (13:05, SD) Producers Albert Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg and Screenwriter Paul Haggis talk about their efforts to turn the original stories by F.X. Toole into a film.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:28)