Absolute Power

1997, Movie, R, 121 mins


At first the absence of high-speed car crashes, automatic weapons and rapid-fire cutting is refreshing, but as this political thriller slowly becomes a dreary exercise in cynical vengeance, one begins to long for a good explosion. Aging master-thief Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) breaks into the mansion of vacationing millionaire Walter Sullivan (E.G. Marshall), planning to empty the old man's private vault, which is carefully concealed in a secret room behind a two-way mirror. But the heist is interrupted by the arrival of Sullivan's sexy, drunk young wife (Melora Hardin) and a man (Gene Hackman). As Luther watches from within the vault -- first titillated, then horrified -- the couple's sexual tryst turns ugly. The girl violently resists her partner's sadistic pawing, two men burst in and shoot her dead, and within seconds, a carefully orchestrated cover-up is underway. The man is Alan Richmond, President of the United States. This is a great opening sequence, and it's a shame the rest of the movie doesn't live up to it. For a thriller, it lots on its mind: family, honor, respect, betrayal, responsibility, the secret faces people hide from their loved ones, and -- of course -- the poisonous evil of power. It's an old man's movie, filled with regret over things lost, corrupted and spoiled. Whitney at first plans to flee with his money and forget about the murder, except that Richmond's sniveling, public hypocrisy makes him so mad... and then Richmond's goons go after Whitney's daughter, Kate (Laura Linney). The plot turns are no more ludicrous than those of the average political thriller, but the slow pace makes their preposterousness all the more obvious. Eastwood's acting limitations are also sorely evident, since Luther is the kind of thoughtful thief who has to talk, rather than maintaining the enigmatic fortitude that is Eastwood's forte. Disappointing. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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