American Rebel: Eastwood bio a disappointing read

While I remember the song from Rawhide I don’t recall ever having seen it. For me, Clint Eastwood’s career would have begun with A Fistful of Dollars (1964).

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Another Clint Eastwood film – Blood Work

Last night I watched Clint Eastwood’s movie, Blood Work. I saw it, and wrote about it, back in 2002. I liked it then. Perhaps I liked it a little more this time. It really is a good movie. Here’s what I wrote back in 2002, with it’s asinine opening paragraph and some opinions I don’t necessarily agree with anymore. But, on the whole, in it’s essence, this is pretty bang on. And it goes like this:

Blood Work (2002)

I think Hollywood must be puzzled over what to make of Clint Eastwood. You almost get the feeling they allow him to make movies out of a sense of obligation – he represents an older style within a Hollywood dominated and obsessed by youth. It would be in just too much bad taste for even Hollywood to shut the door on him because he’s, well, old.

But what must be a real head-scratcher for them is the fact that he keeps making good movies. They’re just not today’s Hollywood movies. This, by the way, is one of the reasons they are so good, and come as such a relief.

Blood Work is another good Eastwood movie, though it’s not his best as it has some flaws.

The strength of the movie comes from its script. This is usually the case with Eastwood films of the last few years. He somehow finds strong stories then allows them to play out with little directorial interference. In other words, his direction is understated. It’s almost a hands-off approach. Thus, we get clean, well-framed shots edited in an unobtrusive way that still maintains the film’s pace.

The pace, by the way, is less frantic than the majority of current films. This is partly due to the style Eastwood has developed over the years, the fact that his influences are older (as he is), but also because he has focused so much on ensuring he has a strong story to tell. There is no sense that many films now have that the director lacks confidence in his story and feels the need to throw some razzle dazzle in to keep an audience’s attention.

This is not to say there aren’t some problems with Blood Work, the chief of which lies in the script I’ve been praising. The script has two key relationships within it – that of Eastwood and the character played by Wanda De Jesus, and Eastwood and the character played by of Jeff Daniels. It is in the latter relationship that the weakness lies, but it’s weakness is also because thematically the film’s focus is the former relationship (with de Jesus).

Warning: Spoiler

Broadly, the story is about a man who loses something of himself following a heart transplant operation. An FBI profiler, he receives the heart of a murder victim, the sister of Wanda de Jesus character. This character, de Jesus, has also suffered a loss – her sister. The movie is about how together they find and rebuild themselves, each helping the other.

The McGuffin for this comes from the serial killer who is the cause of both losses. The framework of the movie requires some mystery as to who this person is – Eastwood has to find and stop the killer. But it’s pretty clear who this person is fairly early in the film. This is partly due to the way the situation is set up, but also partly due to the casting. Given the casting, it’s hard to image that one of the film’s actors is playing such a seemingly inconsequential role. You can’t help thinking there must be more to it, and of course there is. You know, therefore, roughly how the plot will resolve.

This isn’t such a big problem, though. The only real problem is the suspicion you have that it is suppose to be a mystery. A better approach would have been to acknowledge how the film actually plays – that we know who the killer is and the film’s hook is seeing how Eastwood handles the mystery.

The reason this problem isn’t so large is because the heart of the movie (no pun intended) is not the mystery but the characters and how they find themselves again, individually and together.

Blood Work is thoroughly enjoyable on a number of levels, not the least of which is the relaxed, unrushed way it unfolds. It is a huge relief, especially during a season of blockbuster DVD releases like Minority Report, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. It doesn’t rely on CGI, overwhelming landscapes, over-the-top camera work and so on. It relies on a story and strong acting performances, as well as unobstrusive camera work and direction. (It’s nice to see scenes that seem natural as opposed to tinted and with high contrast levels.)

Some years from now when the romance with technology and frenetic editing has passed and filmmakers turn again to a more naturalistic look, and a more minimalist approach, it will be to films like Eastwood’s that they will turn to for inspiration.

3 stars out of 4.