My latest from Netflix is Million Dollar Baby, starring Clint Eastwood as a boxing trainer and gym owner, Hilary Swank as a female want-to-be boxer, and Morgan Freeman as a retired boxer who helps run the gym.
I knew little about this film beyond the fact that it is about a woman boxer before I saw it. It is just as good, and more, than I had heard, though I was very surprised about the ending.
Hilary Swank plays a female boxer who comes to Detroit from Texas(?), works as a waitress, and appears in Eastwood's gym, asking him to train her. He tells her he does not train "girls", but she hangs around and practices on the punching bag, even after hours. Freeman lives in a room at the gym and hears her practicing. He finds an old speed ball for her to use, and gives her some tips.
When Eastwood's top boxer deserts him for another trainer, and goes on to win the championship, he gradually becomes aware of Swank still practising at the gym. He finally admits she has promise, and agrees to train her, at least until they can find her a manager.
She turns out to be quite a good boxer, and knocks out her opponents in the first round most of the time. She progresses to matches in Europe, then comes back to the US, where she is scheduled to fight the German champion, who is a former prostitute, and the dirtiest fighter currently boxing.
She and Eastwood have grown fond of each other, and he is reluctant to let her fight the German, but finally agrees to the match. The match is held in Las Vegas, and Swank is the favorite. The crowds chant and yell her stage name, given to her by Eastwood. The match is brutal, but Swank finally gets the upper hand on her opponent. When she turns her back, and drops her bands for a moment, the German knocks her down. She falls on a stool and injures her spine.
Her injuries leave her a quadriplegic, unable to breathe on her own. She is bedridden, only moved to a wheelchair for brief times. She eventually suffers severe bed sores, and gangrene in one leg, which is removed. She asks Eastwood to end her life, but he refuses. She then tries to suicide by biting her tongue (she is a "bleeder"), but the doctors catch it in time and stop her.
When Eastwood sees just how desperate she is to die, he finally decides to help her. He sneaks into the hospital late at night, removes her air tube, and injects adrenaline into her IV, after finally telling her the meaning of the stage name he had given her.
I did not know the film was about euthanasia. I might not have watched it if I had known, but I am glad I did. This is a powerful, haunting story. The acting is superb, the writing and directing even better.
The relationships and the chemistry between the three main characters are brilliant and fascinating. The scene with Eastwood in the hospital room to end her life is the best I have ever seen from him. As good as Swank is in the film, I think Eastwood out does her.
I still see Swank's eyes after her suicide attempt when she has been tranquilized. She can't speak to Eastwood when he tells her what he intends to do to help her, but her eyes are unforgettable.