A Solid Murder Mystery From Clint Eastwood
****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS****
- Clint Eastwood directs and stars in Blood Work, a thoroughly enjoyable and very well-crafted 21st Century murder mystery thriller. In many ways the plot for Blood Work is familiar; we see a retired FBI agent, who is the best there ever was, returning for one more personal job - then on top of that, the story is a little paint-by-numbers in other ways and is a little predictable as well.
However, other aspects set Blood Work apart from other law enforcement murder mystery thrillers. For one thing, the relationship between the hero and murdered victim is unique (the death of the victim gives a new heart to the hero); but the relationship between the hero and the villain is especially unique. The villain commits murder to save the hero in order to continue their good vs. evil game - the hero actually owes the villain his life in some way. That is very interesting to me and gives the plot of an intriguing twist.
Also, the very fragile and vulnerable nature of Eastwood's Terry McCaleb character set him apart from other cops/FBI agents that he has personally played throughout his career. Eastwood gives an excellent performance in the film; anyone who suggests that Blood Work is basically Dirty Harry except in name missed or simply did not understand Eastwood's characterization. Unfortunately, only Jeff Daniels, who is an inspiring duel buddy/psychotic villain character, matches Eastwood's level of acting - Wanda De Jesus, Anjelica Huston, and Tina Lifford all have good moments intertwined with bad moments and Paul Rodriguez is embarrassingly awful.
Blood Work is a significant film in Clint Eastwood's career, signifying both an end and a beginning of an era. Firstly, Blood Work is the last law enforcement murder mystery thriller - in both the fields of acting and directing - of the many similar films and characters in Eastwood's career. Secondly, Blood Work is Eastwood's first collaboration with Tom Stern as Director of Photography. Eastwood likes to work with the same people for his films and one can tell which cinematographer is shooting which film just by looking at it. Bruce Surtees was Eastwood's D.P. on Play Misty For Me (1971) - Pale Rider (1985), Jack N. Green shot Heartbreak Ridge (1986) - Space Cowboys (2000), and Tom Stern begins his acclaimed term on Eastwood's team with his cinematography work on Blood Work in 2002. Stern ushers in a new visual era for Clint Eastwood's films with the more modern 21st Century look for Blood Work.
Blood Work is perhaps not one of Eastwood's very best films but I enjoyed it a heck of a whole lot - it is a well-made kick-back-and-enjoy-style movie that is significant to the career of one of the finest filmmakers and actors in film history on top of it all.
CBC Rating: 7/10