Blood Work

Blood Work (15)

Clint Eastwood, now 72, continues his growing obsession with the ageing process in Blood Work, a thin and limp adaptation of the novel by Michael Connelly, in which, as retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb, Eastwood investigates a murder spree that seems to wind its bloody way back to him.

Coming hard on the heels of Space Cowboys, another Eastwood project that considered the pluses and minuses of growing old, Blood Work allows Eastwood to embrace the macho characteristics that made his name as a screen icon in the ‘60s and ‘70s while exploring still further his fascination with age – an issue first raised in Unforgiven ten years ago and continued in In the Line of Fire.

McCaleb is first seen pursuing a murderer known as The Code Killer until he is stopped in his tracks by a massive heart attack. Two years later, prematurely retired and the recipient of a heart transplant, McCaleb lives a quiet life on his boat until a stranger asks for his help in tracking down her sister’s killer.

There appears to be a link to McCaleb’s own situation. The trick is in finding that link; when he does, he’ll find the killer. Reluctantly hauled out of retirement McCaleb finds himself lured into a game of cat-and-mouse with a killer who appears to have a very personal motive for the murders he commits.

With a supporting cast that includes Jeff Daniels as an indolent neighbour and Anjelica Huston as McCaleb’s cardiologist, Blood Work is fairly top heavy with talent. Then there is Eastwood himself, still a macho icon as he edges into his 70s and carrying a lot of baggage when it comes to films of this type.

Yet he wanders through the proceedings with ease and, while the film will never be the best thriller he’s made (actually, it ranks among the least successful) it is constructed with the same careful workmanship that flows through all Eastwood’s work as actor/director.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, while the script (by Brian Helgeland, director of Payback and the forthcoming The Sin Eater, starring Harrison Ford, and the writer of Eastwood’s next, Mystic River) works hard to build tension and works in some neat twists, but never rises above being merely average.

And that’s a shame because, even with Clint’s growing obsession with age, this could be an above-average drama if only it tried a little harder; Eastwood unfortunately seems to be playing strictly by the numbers.

One moment will please fans of his more traditional pictures: when a grizzled Clint, squinting into the L.A. sun, drags a pump-action 12-gauge from the boot of his car and blasts away at a suspect in a car. At 72, the lad can still do it. More power to his trigger finger, I say.

Star rating: ***

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