Blood Work

2002, Movie, R, 115 mins


His weather-beaten face as sharply angled as a craggy cliff, longtime actor-director Clint Eastwood is a man who understands his limitations. He's not a character actor, he's an icon, and crime stories are his metier. Former Los Angeles Times crime reporter Michael Connelly's 1998 best-selling police procedural, Blood Work, is a canny choice of material. At 72, Eastwood is a good 30 years older than Connelly's Terrell McCaleb, but that's not as important as the fact that McCaleb is retired from the FBI for medical reasons. McCaleb is defined by his infirmity (the title alludes equally to murder and medical tests), and that liberates Eastwood from the kind of rough-and-tumble engagement he can no longer credibly undertake. But the story itself, which lurches from simplistic detective work to a formulaic climax via a series of credibility-straining twists, is less than gripping. Profiler McCaleb (Eastwood), whose media friendliness infuriates local law enforcement, is hot on the trail of the "Code Killer," who leaves him personalized messages along with bloody corpses. McCaleb catches sight of his elusive prey near a fresh crime scene and gives chase, but has a heart attack mid-pursuit. He spends the next two years waiting for a transplant and against all odds — McCaleb has an extremely rare blood type — gets a new heart, but it comes with an unexpected price. Grieving Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) turns up at his houseboat, asking for help finding the man who killed her sister, Glory. The LAPD isn't especially interested in Glory's case; they think she just happened to be in the wrong place — a small convenience store in a rough neighborhood — at the wrong time, when a masked robber decided to hold it up. McCaleb demurs until Graciella drops the bombshell: His new heart was her sister's. Unable to drive, McCaleb recruits his marina neighbor, boat bum Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels), to chauffeur him around. After watching the store's surveillance tape and learning that a man was killed at an ATM two weeks earlier, under strikingly similar circumstances, McCaleb begins to suspect the police were too quick to dismiss the killing as routine. While the film is commendably low-key — it's 100-percent high-voltage stunt work and CGI effects-free — its plot is as preposterously melodramatic as a noir nightmare like DOA (1950), without that film's restless undercurrent of disillusioned fatalism. It's merely glum when it should be bracingly grim. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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