Entertainment-At The Movies



By Marty Meltz

Eastwood`s `Baby` a diamond in the ring

Grizzled Clint Eastwood, virtuoso of plots grim and grisly, scores again
with a flawless study of a female boxing career headed for tragedy. No
“Rocky” this, it’s a tale colored in foreboding tones, both in narrative and
photography, detailing in ominous progression a relationship at first
distant, then melding into a deeply heartfelt surrogate father-daughter

The story, from a short story by F.X. Toole (pseudonym for actual fight
manager, corner man and “cut-man” Jerry Boyd), is of Frankie Dunn
(Eastwood), owner of a decaying but friendly boxing gym in a low-income
neighborhood. Guilt-laden because of some undefined estrangement with his
daughter, his letters to her have always been returned unopened. Proudly
Irish, he searches for solace in readings of Gaelic prose and Yeats poetry.
A devout church-goer, his endless questions about Catholicism irk his priest
who wishes he would miss a few Masses and just get lost.

Frank has been a good trainer in his past, but fate has always eluded him in
taking his boxers to contender level. One badly beaten failure had been now
best-pal (and the film’s narrator) Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan
Freeman), who lost sight in one eye. Bitter disappointment now strikes again
as Frank’s highly promising young protege (Mike Colter) deserts him for a
savvy big-time manager.

But his life will change dramatically when 32-year-old Maggie Fitzgerald
(Hilary Swank), refugee daughter of a poor upbringing, seeking to find her
personal worth through boxing, comes to Frank’s gym for bag punching.
Undaunted by his stonewalling (“I don’t take on girl boxers”), enduring her
waitressing job and living on a pittance, Maggie, with encouragement from
Scrap, finally is making headway. She’s getting to Frank. And boxing is her
single life’s purpose.

Frank, feeling the fatherlike bond that is developing, is impressed with her
resolve, especially when she gets to decking one opponent after another. Her
feet and hands are amazingly fast; her attentiveness to learning is
productive at every level. She is headed for welterweight contender status
and the formidable champion awaits her. And so does an ultimately harsh

No Hollywood rise to stardom over insurmountable obstacles here, no wish
fulfillment cliches, this is, rather, about a “father” and a
40-years-younger “daughter” who have no one and nothing else in life but
each other. If either fails, the other will fail also to the same degree. As
director, Eastwood, with enormous gravity, isolates the intimate details of
confrontations with the preciousness of one’s short time on earth. In the
end, the two will be one, entwined in each other’s very essence, each having
completed the other perfectly. No sex, no romance. Just a spiritual triumph
at a cosmic level.

Cheadle, ‘Rwanda’ Unforgettable

In the darkest annals of the human spirit, the 20th century displayed its
ugliest politics of indifference in the special category of genocide. While
the Holocaust got its day in court and in retribution, 17 million Russian
civilians died under Stalin’s responsibility, ignored by the world. The
Chinese Cultural Revolution saw 30 million killed, ignored by the world. In
1919 a million Armenians were killed by the Turks, no punishment exacted.

The most heartrending of all, in terms of world indifference were the 1
million killed by machetes and bullets in Rwanda in April of 1994. “Hotel
Rwanda” dramatizes the saga of the willful apathy of the United Nations as
it manifested in the true story of a small hero of the slaughter.

It all begins when Rwandan President Habyarimana is killed when his plane is
shot down near Kigali Airport by Hutu extremists, this because he had been
about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords to settle the Hutu-Tutsi
conflict. Controlling the media and loudspeakers, the Hutus blame the Tutsis
and the mass killings begin that night, to continue for 100 days. The Hutus
(not mentioned in the film) hate the Tutsis for their collaboration with the
former Belgian colonialists’ oppression of them.

The story is of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), the amiable, peaceful Hutu
manager of the ritzy Hotel Des Milles Collines in Kigali, who gathers in
some 1,200 Tutsi relatives, friends and strangers to hide them from the
massacre. He deletes names from the registry, bribes military officials with
cash and beer, and finally exhausts every ruse imaginable to sidetrack the
army of marauding machete-wielding Hutu fanatics.

A few U.N. camps offer shelter to civilians, but most of the U.N.
peacekeeping forces are obliged, by their explicit “monitoring” mandate, not
to intervene. Belgium and France send troops to rescue their own, American
civilians are airlifted. The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to
withdraw almost all of the U.N. troops, cutting the number from 2,500 to

At the hotel, Rusesabagina, his wife and children cringing in anticipation,
beseeches Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte), head of the U.N. contingent, to block
the oncoming Hutu vultures.

Don Cheadle, in this his most dimensional role, delivers a riveting mix of
dynamic emotions with fast-changing degrees of urgency as Rusesabagina
scrambles in dodges and delaying tactics, all the while dealing with his own
integrity as the rapacious Hutu military officers demand more and more
tribute amid their cold-blooded murdering.

A skilled portrayal of the caprice of the human kill motive at its primal
levels, the vagaries of greed and the whims of armed power in the hands of
uncivilized men, the film is also a stark commentary on the conveniences of
world politics when it comes to regards for humanity. The little people are
the pawns of the powerful, used, or unused and stored away for future use.
The terror of women and children is blood-curdling, the final assault
spellbinding. But out of the abominations of Rwanda comes unforgettable

Marty Meltz has been reviewing movies for the Portland Newspapers for 27
years. His reviews appear weekly in the Telegram and on Thursdays in the
Press Herald.