"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Vern Reviews MILLION DOLLAR BABY! And Steven Seagal Is Nowhere In Sight!!

Hi, everyone. “Moriarty” here with some Rumblings From The Lab…

You know why I don’t pay attention to Oscar talk? Because it reduces an entire quarter of every year to a horse race. People don’t talk about the merits of movies. They talk about whether or not they’ve “got what it takes to win.” They pit films against each other. People start digging trenches and getting nasty about their team. And inevitably, the films that mean the most to me from a given year aren’t the ones that have the giant campaigns or the marketing muscle. So instead of getting all worked up and expending dozens of column inches to explain to you why someone else’s opinion is wrong, I’ll just stick to my own personal opinions of a film’s merits for the two hours I’m in a theater, and fuck the Oscars.

While I wasn’t knocked out by Clint Eastwood’s latest, I think it’s a nice little film, sincere and unadorned for the most part. When I got in this review from Vern, who is a raving Clint Eastwood fanatic, I figured it would be nice to run it as the film starts its expansion from limited release on Friday. Check this out:

Boys,

Just to prove that I don’t ONLY watch straight to video Steven Seagal movies (just mostly), I thought I’d send you my review of the latest from Clint Eastwood, America’s Badass Laureate. I know MILLION DOLLAR BABY is already playing in a few hotshot Oscar qualification type cities but I was lucky to see it before its official release here. In my parts this is early.

Million Dollar BabyBy the way Quint, congratulations on Harry and Mori giving you the keys while they are out of town working on mortal kombat or whichever. This is a big opportunity to make mom and dad proud. DO NOT fuck it up. No parties. And cool it with the sexual harassment please. What if Natalie Portman reads that shit, how you think she’s gonna feel? Good? Jesus man. Otherwise good job though champ.

Clint’s latest as a director, producer, composer, star is a real good piece of work. I’ll tell you that up front. But still I want everybody to calm down for a minute. Keep your pants on. Don’t let all the acclaim butter you up too much. Don’t listen to Roger Ebert saying “there is only one word to describe Clint Eastwood’s new film: masterpiece.” Or Peter Travers saying, “Explosive! A white knuckle thrill ride!” Or Gene Shalit saying, “MILLION DOLLAR BABY is one in a million. I’ll watch it a million times, baby!” Or Larry King saying, “Incredible! One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen!”

(that first quote was real, the other two I’m just assuming they’ll probaly say)

What this is is a humble movie that moves in slow and pulls you in an inch at a time. The kind of movie that comes over and you figure it’s nothing special, you hang out for a while and don’t have much to do, then all the sudden you turn around you realize you’re married to it and you have two kids. And you like it. They’re good kids. Maybe one’s a little slow but he tries, you know. He has heart. What I’m saying is this movie works its magic slowly. Doling out information about the characters a piece at a time, making you wait until it all fits together.

If you go in though thinking “masterpiece! one in a million! Oscar Oscar Oscar!” you will probaly end up being one of those assholes that says, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” But if you go in saying, “Well okay, an underdog boxing movie, I don’t know. But it’s Clint, it can’t be that bad,” then you got the right idea.

And yes it’s a movie about boxing, sort of. Clint is the “cut man” whose job it is to make a fighter stop bleeding long enough that the ref won’t call the match. One day this stubborn “trailer trash” gal Maggie (Hilary Swank) shows up at his gym and tries to get him to train her. Of course he turns her down and she eventually convinces him, he grows attached, she gets real good, but she thinks she’s more ready than he does, etc. etc. (Thankfully the fact that she’s a girl isn’t very important. They get over that fast. Most of the characters work in the world of boxing so they understand that there is such a thing as woman boxers that aren’t part of foxy boxing.)

The boxing scenes are intense, the relationship between Clint and his boxer is sweet, and there is some good everyday life type color to the scene at the Hit Pit Gym where they are based. Morgan Freeman is the manager of the gym who narrates the whole thing, and at the beginning I was a little worried. He’s dropping little nuggets of boxing wisdom like “You can’t fight without heart” and that type of bullshit. And plus, he’s wearing the same god damn hat he always wears. I think Moriarty already said something like this, and whatever he said was probaly wrong, but between you and me Quint here’s the truth. The guy has shared so much down home wisdom with us in so many fucking movies that it’s hard to take him seriously. This time he has a dead eye and a little extra grit but I wish he would try harder to come off as somebody other than Morgan Freeman. And what it boils down to I decided is the fucking hat. In the two scenes where he’s not wearing it, he looks more tough and athletic than usual. He looks like his character, Scrap. When he wears the hat, he’s fucking Morgan Freeman, here to guide us through life with effortless, angelic wisdom. Oh well. He steps back after a while and it all works out.

All you really need to know is that this is about boxing but it’s not mostly about boxing. It turns out to be more about family and mistakes and blame and God and what you do with your life, etc. It’s about Clint not having his daughter and Hilary not having her family. It’s refreshing to have a movie that starts out as a satisfying formula movie then chews a hole through the template of this type of movie, doing so much damage that the whole thing peels off and gets trampled under its feet. In other words it’s not really the movie you expect when you come in, which is a good thing.

But fer chrissakes don’t go in there trying to figure out what to expect! Jesus. I hate that. People read so many reviews saying, “I would never dream of giving away the big surprise plot twist at the end!” that they sit there watching the movie going, “Hmmm, what’s the plot twist, search for clues, search for clues… what could come out of left field?Could that chick have a dick? Could he be a ghost? Could the guy from Felicity be the killer? Ah ha! I figured it out! That movie sucked. So predictable.”

Not that there’s some surprise plot twist, I’m just saying, go see the movie before you hear too much about it. The fresher the better in this case.

And now, as for Clint. He’s a great director, but he’s also the greatest icon of Badass Cinema. So I’m glad to see him in front of the camera for this one. To be frankly honest I thought MYSTIC RIVER was real overrated. That cast, a script by the director of PAYBACK, and directed by Clint? How could you go wrong? Well, I think they sort of did. The middle part was great, real gritty, real intense, real foreboding and tragic. But the beginning and end were too phoney for me. The beginning was like mupppet babies, with little kids dressed up as the adult cast. A tough talking kid wearing a leather jacket is baby Sean Penn! I forgave all that but then in the end, after two hours of rubbing your face in the horrors of true crime, they wrap it up with a shiny Hollywood bow with two many coincidences and ridiculous sitcom contrivances. I don’t care if it was in the book, it just didn’t work for me. It should’ve stayed true to life.

This one, I think, works. I mean there’s alot of cliches in here but they’re grounded in the real world. They feel more like real people and events to me. Things work out the way they work out, instead of the way they’re supposed to work out in a movie. And it’s more understated, the music and the editing and the acting. And no random Lady Macbeth monologues out of nowhere.

Clint is as tough and charming as ever. He gets to say alot of funny lines and also not say much about the pain that he’s obviously living with. And now he has a grandpa feel. He puts on his reading glasses and it’s over, you gotta love the guy. I gotta point out that Clint is really looking his age now. I mean he looks more interesting the older he gets, but it’s actually to the point where I’m getting worried about him, realizing he’s not gonna be around forever. It fits the character but I think the gravelly voice is for real this time. Our relationship with him and his movies sort of mirrors one of the situations in the movie. We want him to stick around, but if he doesn’t, he had a pretty good run.

Oh, who am I kidding – “pretty good?” He had a fucking rampage! From the Leone pictures to the Siegel pictures to the A Film by Clint Eastwood pictures. The good, the dirty, the outlaw, the drifter. And THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, man! I love that movie. Then he sits down at the piano and starts playing. Puts up the money to finish STRAIGHT NO CHASER. Wins best director and picture for UNFORGIVEN, and actually deserves it! And that was 13 damn years ago, he’s still going strong. Clint Eastwood is the motherfucking MAN. Nobody’s had as good a run as him, ever. And he’s still not fizzling out.

On behalf of America and the world, thank you Clint.

your friend,

Vern

Thanks, man. And for the record… I finished MORTAL KOMBAT about three years ago. It’s in the hands of the money weasels now, where I’m sure it will continue to languish quite nicely.

“Moriarty” out.

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/19080

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 6th, 2005 at 4:27 am and is filed under AICN, Drama, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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