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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.25%
Worth A Look: 18.64%
Pretty Bad: 8.47%
Total Crap: 23.73%

4 reviews, 35 user ratings

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Absolute Power
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Clint does pulp at a crawl."
3 stars

In recent years, and especially after "Unforgiven," the critical consensus on Clint Eastwood has brightened considerably, and deservedly so. He's become a skillful and compassionate director and not a bad actor. But a lot of critics seem to want to believe that "Absolute Power," Eastwood's new movie as director/star, is better than it is. The film isn't bad, but it's contrived and dawdling, and the slow patches give you plenty of time to reflect on the many implausible moments.

Adapted by screenwriting godhead William Goldman (whose credibility is steadily slipping after The Ghost and the Darkness and The Chamber) from a bestseller by David Baldacci, Absolute Power aims to be entertainment with serious political undertones. The format is familiar: Disreputable Loner Discovers Corruption in High Places. In movies like this, the hero must have a questionable background, or else everyone would listen to him and the movie would be over in five minutes. The film that was supposed to kill this genre for good was, of course, JFK.

But no, here's Clint as ingenious thief Luther Whitney, a kinder, gentler update of his arrogant art thief Jonathan Hemlock in The Eiger Sanction. One very dark night, Luther breaks into a ritzy mansion and is interrupted by a drunken couple. Hiding behind a two-way mirror, Luther watches as the man and woman fumble with their clothes. Then the foreplay turns rough, and the episode ends with the woman dead. Some reviewers have given away the twist about half an hour into the movie, when the supposedly shocking identity of the man (an underused Gene Hackman) is revealed. I'll keep my mouth shut, but it really doesn't make much difference who Hackman's character is. He could just be a rich and powerful man -- the same sort that always turns up in these thrillers. The title promises far more intrigue than we get.

Instead, we get many scenes of Clint in his cute mode, sketching or wearing disguises or playing coy games with an admiring detective (Ed Harris). And there's a nice subplot, involving Luther's tentative relationship with his estranged daughter (Laura Linney, redeeming yet another thankless role), that would fit snugly into a whole different movie. But all I kept thinking was: A woman is dead here. Knock it off with all the digressions and patented William Goldman snappy patter.

The first reel or so, in which the appalled Luther witnesses the rough sex and killing, has been compared to Hitchcock and Blue Velvet, and Eastwood stages it deftly. Yet we can't help thinking how contrived it is that Luther should be there under these circumstances, helpless to act (if he intervenes, he'll go to jail), and Eastwood's direction is unhurried and calm when it needs to speed us past our misgivings.

"Absolute Power" is professional and sometimes witty. It was probably a useful exercise for Eastwood. But he has gone past this button-pushing pulp, and his phlegmatic style here shows it. Maybe Eastwood simply can't do shallow stuff any more. That's good news for his admirers and bad news for this script.

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originally posted: 12/30/06 11:22:22
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell routine eastwood flick 3 stars
5/04/15 Ed Riddick Somewhat entertaining but repeatedly disappointing, after the compelling opening. 3 stars
2/02/12 Jeff Wilder Well-acted and directed. But lacks the quality to stand out. 3 stars
9/05/08 JEAN LOVED IT !! 4 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike not the best thing Clint has done 3 stars
1/13/07 Sepi53 excellent political thriller! Clint rules!!! 5 stars
11/15/06 Indrid Cold Clint seems to make a lot of these decent but forgettable thrillers. 3 stars
8/26/05 ES pointless, I love Eastwood but this dog won't hunt 2 stars
5/31/05 Roger Levit While not Eastman's best, it hoilds its own. 4 stars
6/02/04 Jack Sommersby Entertaining but nonsensical. The first 15 minutes are deftly superb. 3 stars
6/02/04 tatum Crisp thriller, "it could never happen!"...yeah, right 5 stars
5/16/04 John Clint helps - but this movie does need help 3 stars
1/27/04 x-nonymous This sucked the creme out of my twinkie. 1 stars
12/25/03 Sugarfoot Pretty decent, even though it's a step backwards for Eastwood 3 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink Good perfs elevate this trash with one of the worst third acts ever! 2 stars
4/12/03 Jeremy Laura Linney in one of her usual bitch roles. 3 stars
11/17/02 E. Clifton Daniel Fat Roger Ebert is right about this film ... it is a superior thriller with a human side. 4 stars
2/01/02 Andrew Carden Other Then A Flimsy Plot, The Movie Is A Soon-2-Be Classic...Excellent Movie. 5 stars
4/01/01 R.W. Welch Has its moments early on, but loses credibility along the way. 3 stars
3/26/01 Monster W. Kung Very good, if a little unrealistic, portrait of power and its abuse. 4 stars
2/16/01 Jake I enjoyed it immensely. 4 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla Good, but not that bad, I think i know now where ol' Monica got the idea for doing Bill... 4 stars
9/05/00 Terrie Smith Eastwood has done better; Hackman goes over the top. Not bad. 3 stars
5/19/00 tank suspenseful, intelligent but flawed. 4 stars
9/30/99 the Grinch Better than most drivel, but disappointing ending. 4 stars
4/20/99 Lucas jackson This movie was good,but fuck it could have been better,it's not as good as Dirty Harry 4 stars
4/13/99 Go Swans Superbly acted, but a poor ending does it in. 4 stars
2/18/99 Piz boring well acted movie...good premise 2 stars
11/13/98 Jules I was not surprised to see it in the list of movies on a hotel movie channel... 2 stars
9/26/98 Slabs Most of the film was relatively common-place but fun. 3 stars
8/26/98 Pete Clint.. babe. Deliberate pacing doesn't always equal good. 3 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Absolute Toilet more like. 2 stars
8/19/98 Johny It was alright, nothing noteable 3 stars
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  14-Feb-1997 (R)
  DVD: 07-Oct-2003

  30-May-1997 (15)

  02-Jul-1997 (M)

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