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Blood Work

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Clint Eastwood scouts locations for "Junkyard Wars."

© 2002, Warner Bros.
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I must hand it to Clint Eastwood. As most directors age these days, their films get more infantile. Not Eastwood. His characters and pictures seem to be maturing with the filmmaker, and his latest and 23rd film, "Blood Work" (IMDb listing), is an acceptable, though deeply clunky, example of an adult thriller made by adults for adult audiences. A refreshing change of pace, especially when it opens on the same weekend as the juvenile "XXX."

Aging FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) has come across a serial killer who wants to play with the agent for kicks. When Terry stumbles on the killer by accident, a foot chase instigates a heart attack and the killer gets away clean. Two years later, Terry has found a heart donor, and is trying to rebuild his life under the stern guidance of his cardiologist (Angelica Houston), and his slacker houseboat neighbor, Buddy (Jeff Daniels). Out of the blue comes Graciella (Wanda De Jesus, "Ghosts Of Mars"), a sister of a recent murder victim, who wants Terry's help to find the killer who got away. The reason? Terry's new heart came from Graciella's sister, and she wants vengeance. Terry willingly takes the case, but soon finds that this new rash of murders might have a connection to a killer that was believed to have disappeared.

There is nothing in "Blood Work" that you couldn't get from the recent rash of cop-themed television that seems to be everywhere you turn a dial. But those shows don't have Eastwood, and that's the main appeal of a film like "Blood Work." It isn't classic Eastwood, but more tepid Eastwood, as evidence in recent films such as "True Crime" and the delightful "Space Cowboys." As he's aging, Eastwood's passion for raging entertainment is eroding, and "Blood Work" is his most disjointed film in over a decade. I wouldn't suggest that Eastwood is losing his touch, but maybe he's just not that interested in a touch anymore. His films have always been breezy, languid affairs, simply because Eastwood the filmmaker is a minimalist, and I adore that. But "Blood Work" suffers only when Eastwood is forced to keep things moving, and that's always been the filmmaker's weakness.

While "Blood Work" is a serviceable and often engrossing mystery/thriller, when it comes time to tying the loose ends together, Eastwood has difficulty. There is a jarring cut between the second and third acts that doesn't help the film's story at all. Being the subtle, audience-trusting filmmaker that he is, Eastwood doesn't ground the story thoroughly enough, so when the killer is finally revealed, I was confused more than placated. I can't help but feel precious scenes are on the cutting room floor, as this transition to the climax is just too disruptive to come out of the laptop of writer Brian Hegeland ("L.A. Confidential," working here from the novel by Michael Connelly). Equally as harsh is a last minute romance between Terry and Graciella, which suffers from too little set up as well.

Still, there is plenty to be excited about with "Blood Work," mainly because it's always a treat to see Eastwood acting again. Looking haggard, and refreshingly playing his age, Eastwood is a soothing presence on screen. With a little careful writing, "Blood Work" could've easily been the last installment of Eastwood's landmark "Dirty Harry" franchise, as it deals with a hotshot, elder cop overtaken by his own mortality. As much as I enjoyed Eastwood's performance, and those from Wanda De Jesus and a particularity goofy Jeff Daniels, there is a missed opportunity here that could have made the lukewarm "Blood Work" into something stellar.

Filmfodder Grade: C+

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