Film » Film: Previews and Reviews

Red Flag



Clint Eastwood still has that grimace when he faces the bad guy, the slight flare of nostril and ever-so-faint twitch just before he dares the villain to make his day. Yes, the hair is thinner and the waist a little saggy, the skin around his neck a little looser, more lines on that chiseled face. But he's still Clint Eastwood, dadgummit, and you don't have to suspend one molecule of disbelief when the hot babe wants to get horizontal.

Currently Clint is grimacing and twitching in a new mystery called Blood Work, where he plays Terry McCaleb, an FBI guy who specializes in serial killers. As the picture opens, McCaleb is tracking the Code Killer, one of those psycho types who thrills in the cop's frustration as much as he does in murder. The Code Killer is forever butchering innocents and then leaving McCaleb a taunting note. Sort of nah, nah, nah-nah, nah with gore. Then outside a crime scene one day McCaleb spots a suspect and gives chase across the street, around the corner, through the alley, between the cars, over the fence. In the old days a Clint cop would just run the bad guy down, beat him up, make his day on a permanent basis and move on to chase the next bad guy. But, let's face it, Clint isn't as young as he once was. And that gasping you hear is not excitement over a bad guy who's just about to get what's coming to him. Ack, ack, ack -- thud! Turn out the lights, the ticker's busted.

Two years later, McCaleb is doing at least a little better. He's retired and living on his boat in a Los Angeles marina. Yeah, he's got a scar on his chest that runs from collar to belt. But on the inside he's got a brand new heart -- well, new to him anyway, and that's not just a metaphor. Now if he'd just take his medicine and take it easy, he might live awhile. But wait. Who's that knocking at his door? Why it's Graciela Rivers (Wanda De Jesus), a Mexican-American waitress whose sister was murdered not long ago. She needs McCaleb's help. But he's retired. And he's not supposed to work. If he gets run down, his body could still reject his heart transplant, in which case he will be known as "the late Terry McCaleb." So, no, however much he might want to, he really can't help. But wait, Graciela has purchase: McCaleb's new heart was her murdered sister's old one. So won't he change his mind? Won't Mario Andretti change lanes?

Well, now, here's the odd thing: Before McCaleb collapsed while chasing the Code Killer, he managed to fire a slug into the bad guy's back. And that was the last anyone ever heard of the Code Killer. McCaleb figures he just slunk off somewhere and croaked. Alas, no. Because as McCaleb begins to work on the murder case of Graciela's sister, suddenly the Code Killer goes back to work. More dead bodies. More taunts. It's like deja vu all over again. Could the Code Killer have killed Graciela's sister? And if so, why? Most important, of course, who is the Code Killer?

Well, we've got an entire cast of suspects. Graciela almost certainly isn't the Code Killer. But are we sure McCaleb isn't? Other suspects include Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston), McCaleb's heart surgeon; Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels), McCaleb's marina neighbor and sometimes private investigation chauffeur/assistant; James Lockridge (Rick Hoffman), a witness to one of the murders; Bolotov (Igor Jijikine), a violent Russian immigrant in danger of going to jail for life on "three strikes you're out"; Ronaldo Arrango (Paul Rodriguez), a Los Angeles homicide detective with a longtime grudge against McCaleb; John Waller (Dylan Walsh), Arrango's partner who might just be too good to be true. We're not even altogether sure about Jaye Winston (Tin Lifford), a San Fernando Valley homicide detective. She doesn't seem like a suspect, but she and McCaleb have a history the picture never makes adequately clear. Is she hiding something?

Lots of suspects would seem to make for adequate narrative tension. But there's the rub. Maybe I've just seen too many movies in my life, but I had the killer pegged inside the first 20 minutes. Worse than knowing who did it, I knew why, and I knew how and why all the connections led back through the murder of Graciela's sister. Every page of my notebook has the notation: "Please let me be wrong." But I wasn't. And that meant I was on hold until the last 20 minutes when the mystery is revealed and we get down to the gun play of settling up. Not much novel there.

Still, maybe you aren't as jaded a filmgoer, and maybe you'll be lucky enough that the plot tricks will work for you. Can't complain about Clint's company. I'll readily concede to that.

Add a comment