I picked this up for a couple of quid at Tescos, of all places, on the premise that if Clint Eastwood directed it, I would probably like it. I wasn't really sure what to expect, clearly the film was about a female boxer (Hilary Swank) but was this to be another Rocky only this time with a sports bra?
Frankie (Clint Eastwood) is an ex boxing manager, master cut healer and owns his own blood and sweat gym that you imagine would be located in the suburbs of somewhere very rough. He is your stereotypical old man boxing trainer, he knows it all, has a hard and icey cold exterior and even has a face that looks like it's been punched repeatedly over the decades that have passed (sorry Clint!). I immediatley drew a comparison to the legendary Micky from Rocky, and on further reflection I maintain that they are not dissimilar; they both had skeletons in the closet and have a very similar 'no shit' demeanour about them. Frankie's long-term friend is the once almost successful has-been Eddie 'Scrap Iron' Dupris who now struggles to earn a living cleaning, training and living in the boxing hall.
Along comes Maggie Fitzgerald, a young local trailer park lady who is depicted as the 'ugly duckling' of the family but who has an incredible air of enthusiasm and a seemingly completely irrational dream of becoming a boxing chamption. Having almost been physically removed from the gym after getting a mere three steps into the boxing hall by the emotionless Frankie, Maggie begins to show her resilience - a likeable character trait that would become a familiar theme throughout the remainder of the movie - and continues to punch (I'm using a loose definition of the word punch - It was a slap at best) the sandbag hanging from the walls.
You always knew that eventually the persistence from this young and inexperienced boxer would win over the ice cold hostile boxing manager. The story that follows isn't surprising either - a bout of victories, a series of promotion up the boxing leagues and a quick rise to fame. At this point, the movie seems to be in cruise control - I felt a certain twist coming. Despite this premenition, what followed took me completely by surprise and opened up a new dimension of thought.
The twist is irrelevant to a well-written review (it would be the ultimate spoiler), but I will say that the film completely changes direction in both action and meaning; unexpected but welcome.
Hilary plays the tom-boy boxer character so well it's like she was born to do it - in fact until I saw "PS. I love you" (shhh, don't tell anyone) at the cinema recently I couldn't even picture Hilary playing such a feminine character. It goes without saying that the outstanding performance from Swank was backed up by an equally impressive performance from Eastwood and to a lesser extent (only because of his lack of on-screen time) Freeman.
The way the film ends is inevitable and even predictable but it still doesn't detract from the quality of the script. This is quite a heart wrencher and gives a stark sense of perspective on life.
Very enjoyable, not your average boxing movie, nothing like Rocky (my inital expectation), a definite addition to my DVD rack.