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Author Topic: Philip French praises BLOOD WORK  (Read 2199 times)
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« on: January 04, 2003, 09:14:02 PM »

French is a longtime Eastwood champion, so maybe it's no surprise he's quite a bit more enthusiastic about Clint's latest than some of his U.K. colleagues. Anyway, here's what he had to say ... in The Observer, Dec. 22, 2002, where Blood Work was the "Observer Film of the Week":

Show Clint a mean street...

Hollywood's ultimate avenging cop is back on familiar territory, on the trail of a serial killer, in his best picture since Unforgiven

Philip French
Sunday December 22, 2002
The Observer

It is just 30 years since Play Misty for Me, the first film Clint Eastwood directed, and Dirty Harry, the movie that helped shape his later screen persona, opened in Britain. These were the first occasions he had played a modern urban American in his native habitat. Over the next three decades, during which he has directed and/or starred in more than 30 movies, we have seen his hair get shorter and greyer, his skin get increasingly tanned and leathery, the voice ever deeper and more hoarse. But the relaxed upright stride, the wry smile, the good humour that always threatens to turn menacing, remain the same and so do the roles.

In Dirty Harry, Eastwood's youngish San Francisco homicide cop, Harry Callahan, was pursuing a sadistically playful serial killer called Scorpio, except that the term 'serial killer' had not been coined then. In his new picture, Blood Work, Eastwood's ageing Los Angeles's FBI profiler, Terry McCaleb, is pursuing a sadistically playful serial killer, and now everyone knows how they operate. The psychopathic crook, dubbed 'the Code Killer' by the media, is deliberately provoking Terry just as Scorpio set out to torment Harry.

One night, Terry catches sight of his faceless antagonist at the crime scene (he recognises his bloodstained basketball shoes) and gives chase through a succession of deserted alleys, until he tries to follow his quarry over a high chain-link gate. He cannot make it and collapses with a spectacular heart attack, his fingers sliding down the links as his face screws up in agony. The killer, his face concealed in a hood, stands mocking him, the scene illuminated by a searchlight beam from a helicopter overhead. Drawing on some reserve of strength, Terry pulls out his gun and fires several shots that make the fleeing killer stagger. He then re-holsters it before collapsing.

It is a fine, lean opening sequence to a sharp, unassuming thriller. The screenplay is adapted by Brian Helgeland (who scripted LA Confidential) from a novel by Michael Connolly, a crime reporter who moved to Los Angeles because it was the home of his idol, Raymond Chandler, and there created the LA cop Harry Bosch.

The movie cuts to two years later and Terry is being examined by a no-nonsense cardiologist with the lovely name of Dr Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston in authoritative form). It is 50 days after he has had a long-awaited heart transplant and is downing 34 pills a day. A scar from the top of his chest to his navel looks like a large frozen zip and he is aware of living on time borrowed from someone else. Terry has, of course, retired from the bureau and is living on a yacht in a marina across the water from the Queen Mary at Long Beach, a smart visual touch suggesting two grand old craft now permanently berthed on LA's southern fringe.

But one day, a good-looking Hispanic woman, Graciella (Wanda De Jesús), arrives with a photograph of her young sister and little nephew. The lad was orphaned when his mother was murdered by a masked thief in a convenience store in San Fernando Valley. Graciella, who sees the LAPD making no progress on the case, reveals that her late sister's heart is now keeping Terry ticking. This pricks his conscience and rouses his investigative instincts.

Despite the threat to his health and the fact that he lacks a private investigator's licence, the chivalric Terry goes down those mean Chandlerean streets again. This is much to the annoyance of the LAPD's Detective Ronald Arrango (Paul Rodriguez), who dislikes the superior FBI man, and the distress of Bonnie Fox.

Terry's inquiries suggest that he is after something more complicated than the commonplace 'scumbag with a gun' that Arrango takes the perpetrator to be. With help from the Los Angeles Sheriff's office and hindrance from the LAPD, which have constant demarcation disputes with each other, Terry connects the murder of Graciella's sister with a similar crime. So he starts rushing around town, taking as a driver the laid-back self-styled 'boat bum' Buddy Noone (the always cheerful Jeff Daniels), a neighbour on the San Pedro marina.

Clues accrue, as do bodies, and it becomes clear that the 'Code Killer' is at it again and that Terry, with whom he has a symbiotic relationship of a Holmes-Moriarty sort, is this ludic loony's ultimate target. Screenwriter Helgeland gives Terry one of those traditional Hollywood lines with an 'I'm a... not a...' formulation, in this case: 'I'm a retired FBI man, not a psychic.' At times, however, he seems to be just that.

Blood as well as brains is at the heart of this picture and the title Blood Work refers to the cardiologist's checks on Terry's delicate condition, to Terry's own description of his profiling activities and to a central aspect of the plot, of which I'll say no more.

This is a superior, carefully crafted entertainment. The production designer is the veteran Henry Bumstead, who worked frequently with Hitchcock as well as Eastwood, and won Oscars for To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Sting. The striking photography is by Tom Stern, his first assignment as cinematographer, though he is one of numerous people groomed by Eastwood, for whom he has been working on lighting for 20 years.

Blood Work is Eastwood's best job of direction since Unforgiven and his most interesting performance since In the Line of Fire, where his character, another middle-aged federal employee, also had physical problems keeping up with his job.

Eastwood's Terry McCaleb brings happily to mind another ageing sleuth, Ira Wells, the retired private eye played by Art Carney in Robert Benton's The Late Show, who has a pacemaker, turns down his hearing-aid when he takes out his gun and goes around Los Angeles by bus.
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2003, 09:35:55 PM »

Thanks for posting it KC.

I enjoyed Bloodwork a lot and it's always good to read a good review here and there.

My favourite part of that review...
Blood as well as brains is at the heart of this picture


"I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way." Carl Sandburg
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