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Movie critic David Edelstein

David Edelstein is movie critic for the online magazine Slate. He reviews the new Clint Eastwood film, Blood Work.


Other segments from the episode on August 9, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 9, 2002: Interview with John Waters; Interview with Divine; Review of the film "Blood work."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Review: New Clint Eastwood film "Blood Work"

Clint Eastwood produces, directs and stars in the new cop thriller "Blood
Work." It's adapted from the best-selling novel by Michael Connelly. Movie
critic David Edelstein has a review.


In his biography of Clint Eastwood, Richard Schickel pays tribute to what he
calls the actor and director's `modern jazz manner.' He says Eastwood has a,
quote, "powerful desire, almost amounting to a morality," not to woo the
audience, not to make what he does look costly to him, emotionally or
intellectually. Now I think that's true, but Eastwood's manly reticence
doesn't always feel like a morality to me. It feels like a big, fat
limitation. It feels like a fear of commitment. It's also one of the reasons
that Eastwood's new thriller "Blood Work" doesn't have much of a pulse.

He plays an ex-FBI profiler named Terry McCaleb who has just had a heart
transplant and who gets guilt-tripped into trying to track down the guy who
shot his organ donor in the head during a convenience store robbery. Now I
know the premise sounds ridiculous, but it works in Michael Connelly's novel.
It's even, if you'll forgive me, heartrending. Connelly is one of those
modern, hard-boiled writers who have a fetish for forensics and autopsy rooms
and a knack for getting into your bloodstream. You get so angry that you
don't mind plowing through all that gooey minutiae with the hero. You want
the bad buy to go down hard. You want that evil purged.

In "Blood Work," the more McCaleb digs into what looked like a routine
robbery, the more sickened he becomes at his own unwitting complicity, that
murder gave him his heart, which gave him his life. So the evil is inside
him, it's literally organic. This is all very creepy, at least in the book.
In the movie it doesn't have the same visceral kick. There aren't enough
surprises. There aren't any surprises. I had high hopes when I heard the
screenplay was by Brian Helgeland, who co-wrote "L.A. Confidential." But
Helgeland is almost too smooth a craftsman. He irons out the plot. He takes
out the dead ends and the false starts and the red herrings, and there's
almost no one left but the killer with a big neon sign that says `Shoot me
before I kill again.'

Eastwood is supposed to be a whizz-bang serial killer tracker, but the
audience is two steps ahead of him the whole time. He comes off as a little

(Soundbite of "Blood Work")

(Soundbite of gun)

Unidentified Actor: Paper said something you didn't like?

Mr. CLINT EASTWOOD ("Terry McCaleb"): Ballistics will match up this slug with
the one in Bulotov's(ph) mouth. It was a code killer for all of it, Torres,
Cordell, Bulotov, all of them.

Unidentified Actor: What does that mean in English?

Mr. EASTWOOD: I shot the guy right here two years ago. The slug in Bulotov's
mouth is the one I hit him with. Now I'm back, and so is he.

EDELSTEIN: That rasp of Eastwood's is a bit unsettling. You can almost see
the flakes of his vocal cords swirling around his head like dandruff. But the
part is a good one for him. He's still as lean as when he played Dirty Harry,
but the hoarseness and the barest hint of a dodder give him a rare
vulnerability. The performance is touching, and he has a nice banter with
Anjelica Huston as his raging cardiologist, and Tina Lifford as an LA
detective with whom he has a teasing intimacy. I wish he didn't direct the
movie as if his cardiologist had told him to take it easy, though. At the
moment when "Blood Work" needs to get faster and more tumultuous and more
operatic even, it stays laconic.

No one expects Eastwood to imitate such hot dogs as Brian De Palma or David
Fincher, who made "Seven" and "Panic Room," but what's the point of a gimmicky
thriller with no razzle-dazzle, no craftiness? Is that perfunctory climax
what Richard Schickel means by morality? Now I've spent many a happy and
amoral beach day with Connelly and Lawrence Block and George P. Pelecanos and
Dennis Lehane and other first-rate male and female mystery writers, but the
real mystery is why these novels, which combine so much relish of the genre
with so much insight into their urban milieus haven't been turned into killer
movies. These writers have taken the stuff of pulp and made it enthrallingly
personal. In routine films like "Blood Work," Hollywood is turning it back
into pulp.

BOGAEV: David Edelstein is the movie critic for the online magazine Slate.


BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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