Blood Work

on August 09, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
In the first few minutes of star/director Clint Eastwood's latest film his character, FBI Profiler Terry McCaleb, suffers a heart attack while chasing down a serial killer. It's the last reasonable thing that happens in the movie. "Blood Work" has a plot that borders on parody, a half-dozen tragic performances (Angelica Houston and Paul Rodriguez among the most pitiable) and, ruefully, a love scene.

Two years retired, McCaleb is six months post-op of a heart-transplant. Out of the blue, the sister of a girl killed in a drug store robbery asks him to find the killer. She figures he's indebted to her since McCaleb owes his life to her dead sister: It's her heart that's in his chest. The labyrinthine scenario that follows actually builds to a rather interesting twist, though it is not the twist the filmmakers would have the plot turn on: the disclosure of the killer. That mystery is undermined early on by poorly considered casting that calls all too much attention to itself.

The story, adapted from a novel by screenwriter Brian Helgeland ("A Knight's Tale," "L.A. Confidential" and "Conspiracy Theory," among other equally mediocre fare), is rife with cop-movie clich├ęs. Everyone is oddly angry and insanely protective of his or her "turf." All the technical details are explained--in detail. All the characters either tell long, overly personal stories, or toss off snappy one-liners. Clint is tough and glib. And then there's the love scene--proof that aging action stars suffer from delusions of past selves. In general, the characters in "Blood Work" have the oddest interactions; they stare at each other a lot, and everyone seems to think everyone else is lying, but for no discernable reason. The performances play like scenes from a daytime soap opera. It makes one pine for the Clint Eastwood who was a good actor rather than a bad director, and who always knew when to ride into the sunset. Starring Clint Eastwood, Wanda De Jesus, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Houston, Tina Lifford and Paul Rodriguez. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Brian Helgeland. Produced by Clint Eastwood and Judie Hoyt. A Warner Bros. release. Thriller/Mystery/Drama. Rated R for violence and language. Running time: 109 min

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