Rated R - Running Time: 1:51 - Released 8/9/02

Blood Work is the latest of Clint Eastwood's soulless crime dramas; in many annoying ways, it's True Crime revisited. Written by Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by Michael Connelly, it features a reasonably interesting story converted into a dumbed-down script and populated by established, talented actors who, under Eastwood's direction, can't seem to say a line convincingly. He himself is at the top of that list.

Eastwood plays California ex-FBI investigator Terry McCaleb, who retired after a foot race with a serial killer gave him a heart attack and subsequent heart transplant. Although his unreasonably nasty doctor (Anjelica Huston) has warned him to take it easy, he returns to unofficial duty when a beautiful woman named Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) comes to his houseboat and asks him to help her solve the murder of her sister. At first he refuses, but two things convince him to take the case: one, the murder victim was the previous owner of his current heart, and two, Graciella has huge bazongas. So after two years of retirement, he returns to his old office to ask about the case (while performing an excellent commercial for Krispy Kreme doughnuts), but his former partner (Paul Rodriguez) tries to brush him off, stating that he's already exhausted all the leads in the case. Unfazed, he begins his own informal investigation, taking along his goofy neighbor at the marina (Jeff Daniels), who seems to be there mainly to provide comic lines and cheesy harmonica music.

He goes to the scene of the crime. He investigates another homicide that was committed by the same killer. He contacts an old friend and fellow cop (Tina Lifford), who has risen to a respectable position on the force, and gets her to help him out. And all this time, he speaks his lines without emotion, without giving the indication of thought process, looking like he's just been roused from sleep and sounding like he perpetually needs to clear his throat. I'm sorry, the guy may be tough, or good-looking, or a respected Hollywood elder, but CLINT EASTWOOD IS NOT A VERY GOOD ACTOR. There, I said it.

The problem is not just Eastwood's performance; it's also his directing. His cast members, while having proven themselves elsewhere, all seem to be stuck in his world of zombie-acting, spouting lines without showing anything behind them. With the exception of De Jesus and Lifford, who imbue their characters with a modicum of personality, the entire cast appears engaged in a bad delivery contest, lacking any trace of the chemistry that is needed to make us care about them. The final sequence (where the villain is revealed) is so ridiculous it staggers the mind, with the bad acting contest going into full high gear. Although Connelly's novel may have some intriguing possiblities, Eastwood's treatment of Blood Work suffers from a serious lack of essential life fluids. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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