‘Million Dollar Baby’ Now on Netflix

"Million Dollar Baby,” one of the most critically acclaimed and controversial films by Clint Eastwood, recently became available on Netflix for live streaming. The 2004 film was a box office hit worldwide and received a number of Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood, Best Actress for Hillary Swank, and Best Supporting Actor for Morgan Freeman, who previously appeared in another Eastwood film, “Unforgiven.”

In the film, Maggie, played by Swank, seeks the help of an old, cantankerous fight trainer named Frankie Dunn, played by Eastwood of course, to start a career in women’s boxing. Frankie is reluctant at first, but then is impressed by Maggie’s determination and natural skill in the ring. She is also encouraged by Frankie’s friend and employee, Eddie Dupris, called Scrap by nearly everyone, played by Freeman.

Maggie’s rise through the world of women’s boxing is meteoric, winning fight after fight, earning a measure of fame and more money than she, who had worked as a waitress, has ever seen. The climax should have been a $1 million fight in Las Vegas. However, tragedy strikes and Maggie’s neck broken.  She is rendered a quadriplegic, unable to move or control normal bodily functions.

Many people suffer accidents such as Maggie endures and go on to live productive, even happy lives. The late newspaper columnist and TV pundit Charles Krauthammer is an example. But Maggie’s entire life has been bound up in overcoming the physical challenges of the ring, fighting, dominating, and then beating opponents to the acclaim of the crowd. The way she is now, Maggie does not think she has any life worth living. The behavior of her family, which just wants her money, confirms that fact.

So she begs Frankie to help her to die, to in effect kill her. This request causes a conundrum for the old man. He has been told that if he were to go through with honoring the request, the plea really, he will “never find himself.”

The end of the movie caused a great deal of controversy concerning the issue of assisted suicide. Some disabled rights activists protested the film as suggesting that a disabled person has no recourse but to die. Maggie could have triumphed over her condition, perhaps to become a teacher, a business owner, or even an inspirational speaker. Eastwood dismissed the criticism, pointing out that he did not necessarily agree with the actions of his character, noting that he had played pretty violent people in previous films. Dirty Harry comes to mind.

Now Netflix subscribers can view “Million Dollar Baby” and argue about the question, deciding for themselves.