|Clint Eastwood||Terry McCaleb|
|Graciela Rivers||Wande de Jesus|
|Anjelica Huston||Bonnie Fox|
|Jeff Daniels||Buddy Noone|
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
Clint Eastwood makes hardware store movies. They?re assembled professionally out of basic nuts and bolts, solidly built and reliable, with a machine-tooled shine. When things go together the way they?re supposed to, you get a structure with cultish impact, a ?Make my day? event that ripples through the language of the moment. When unexpectedly the hardware catches the light in a strange and magical way, and you get something breathtaking like ?Unforgiven?, probably no one is more surprised than Eastwood himself.
In ?Blood Work? there are no surprises. There are twists and turns, but they don?t lift the picture to the level of enchantment, or even cult. Still, it?s built to withstand the stress test of an hour and fifty minutes in a movie theater. Eastwood fans will leave contented, if not thrilled, and daytrippers will want to proceed with caution. Clint is in Dirty Harry mode here, or rather Dirty Old Man Harry, as Terry McCaleb, an aging FBI profiler who has been nudged into retirement by a bum ticker. At the time his heart gives out on him he is on the case of the Code Killer, a serial psycopath who enjoys flirting with McCaleb by leaving him taunting messages scrawled in the victim?s blood on the crime scene. Part of the message is always a string of numbers, hence the code.
Jump ahead two years. McCaleb has acquired a new heart and a new life, and is living quietly on his boat in a marina. His doctor is Anjelica Huston, which ought to be enough to satisfy him. But an intruder shows up in the form of the lovely Graciela Rivers (Wanda de Jesus) to lure him out of retirement and catch her sister?s murderer. She makes her case in a way that is difficult for him to refuse (no, not that; that comes later). And so, against the sternest of doctor?s orders, he swings back into action.
The murderer, it comes as no surprise, seems to be the old Code Killer, back in action after a two-year hiatus. McCaleb has to take it easy, with the stitches hardly healed on his six-month-old heart transplant, so he hires his easy-going slacker neighbor from the marina, Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels) as his driver and Man Friday. They pursue clues, clash with authority, and bend the rules, and eventually things lead where they are going to lead.
With Anjelica Huston in the picture, you might think that for once the septuagenarian Eastwood was going to assign himself a generation-appropriate romance. But no. Angelica?s way too old for Clint, only twenty-one years his junior. She was already in day care when he launched his screen career in a Francis the Talking Mule movie back in 1955. Instead the romantic honors go to de Jesus. And you have to wonder about McCaleb?s priorities when he hires a chauffeur to spare his new heart the wear and tear of driving a car, and then engages in something much more strenuous with a woman half his age. On the other hand, there are priorities, and then there are priorities. Aside from that, Eastwood plays his age fairly straight. He?s the Gasoline Alley of movie stars, growing older in real time as the characters in that venerable comic strip have done. He still manages to take his shirt off in most of his movies, but the purpose no longer seems to be to show off rippling muscles, but to pay wry acknowledgement to the inexorable advance of sag and flab, here underscored with a vertical scar that runs from collarbone to navel. His voice, always leathery, has sunk to a raspy whisper, like a radio station pulled in from far away, half-heard through a breeze of static. ?You look terrible,? Daniels cheerily keeps telling him in a running gag.
If Huston is largely wasted, she fares better than comedian/actor Paul Rodriguez, who suffers through an ugly character saddled with ill-conceived dialogue as the L.A. cop with whom McCaleb regularly clashes. There?s appealing work from Tina Lifford as a more sympathetic officer in the County Sheriff?s department. The plot comes from a novel by Michael Connelly, where it may have worked better because casting was not involved. Once you put stars in a picture, there has to be somewhere for them to go, and a sophisticated audience will make short work of the whodunit. Brian Helgeland has done the screenplay, which will be good news for those who remember his ?L.A. Confidential? work, and bad news for those who recall ?Conspiracy Theory?. Eastwood directs himself for the twenty-somethingth time, and star and director seem to have good rapport.
© Text 2002 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be