by Natasha Theobald
It's almost a shame that this movie was made for adult audiences, because only a young child wouldn't see the majority of it coming from miles in the distance, from the very title card, for goodness sake. I didn't mind at first, because the performances were enjoyable and watching the story unfold at a solid, dignified pace was sort of interesting. Then, things got mired down with romance and predictability, and I just wanted it to be over before the obligatory murderer's explanation of his or her motives and the final fight scene. No such luck.Terry McCaleb's (Clint Eastwood) last case as an FBI agent involved a serial killer who left him encoded messages that anyone should have been able to decode, but no one did. His last act on the case was to give chase, managing to just get a bullet into the guy before his heart gave up on him, literally. In the intervening two years, Terry has waited for a new heart, a wait lengthened, perhaps, by his rare blood type. The heart he finally got came at a price.
"No frills. No surprises."
A couple of months after his transplant, Terry is visited by a woman, Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus), who claims to be the sister of his donor. The woman, it seems, was murdered, and her sister wants Terry to climb out of his sick bed and retirement to take a look at the case. How can he say no? His doctor (Anjelica Huston) feels that his health is in jeopardy. His friend, Buddy (Jeff Daniels), tries to help but worries that Terry is growing overtired. Some of his former cop buddies (Tina Lifford) are happy to have him on the case, and others (Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh) were happier to have him gone. With both, he is able to get enough police support and information to lead him on his quest to finding the killer whose evil brought him some good.
Clint Eastwood gives a sturdy performance and direction to the film. His presence is a touchstone, and his character's journey is the best reason to watch. The fact that people who are supposedly the best investigators around still can't figure this one out is some cause for concern, but, though very predictable, the film is not unwatchable. It also is somewhat refreshing to have a more mature cast than your average movie, to see people who have led rich lives and have real experience brings something genuine and weighty to the screen. That was nice, but not quite nice enough to overcome a weak story. If the drama were rich enough to compensate for the dull lack of mystery, the film might have worked better. But, having put all of their eggs in the whodunit basket, the story suffers from dreadful obviousness and, dare I say it, anemia.Though this film didn't really live up to my expectations, I would still spend my money on a new Clint Eastwood release tomorrow. I am drawn to the characters he brings to the screen, the sort of old-fashioned men you can depend on, and I am truly glad that he is still doing it. Here's to a better script the next time around, something more worthy of its craftsman.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6055&reviewer=317
originally posted: 03/29/03 16:38:58