February 14, 1997 in Seven

A Thief In Over His Head, It’s Eastwood Vs. The World

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press
 

Warning: I Brake for Judy Davis.

Whenever my beloved Judy makes a movie - I mean, whenever Davis makes a movie - I’m automatically interested. And she’s just one of the classy actors in “Absolute Power,” the Clint Eastwood-directed drama that snares Gene Hackman, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris and Laura Linney in a murder cover-up involving the president of the United States.

Eastwood is a thief in the midst of a jewel heist when he witnesses a tryst between a blond and Hackman, as the randiest president in history (present presidents excluded). Rough sex leads to murder and then the chief of staff (Davis) moves in, barking orders to two Secret Service agents, who cover up the crime. Almost immediately, they realize that there was an eyewitness and they try to find Eastwood before he can blab.

“Absolute Power” is appealingly untrendy: no car chases, no explosions, no nubile strippers. There isn’t even a single character in the movie under 30. Instead of sexy stuff, “Absolute Power” explores the psychology of Eastwood’s character, who could have stopped a murder but didn’t. And of his resentful daughter (Linney), who loves her father more than she thinks. And of a conflicted fed (Glenn) sinking deeper into a cover-up, all on the orders of his superiors.

“Absolute Power” gets complicated as Eastwood goes into hiding and feeds a cop (Harris) hints about the crime while Linney tries to help the cop find her father. This all culminates in the trickiest scene, a meeting between Linney and Eastwood that is observed by four different groups of people, all with different reasons for wanting Eastwood out of the way.

Eastwood makes these scenes crackle with subtle tension, but he appears not to have noticed how stiff his performance is in the big emotional scenes. Ditto the gigantic plot holes - at one point we’re told he’s a master of disguise, but his disguise turns out to be a lousy pair of glasses. Still, he ably suggests the dark side of his psychically damaged hero, who resembles his character from the edgy “Tightrope.”

Eastwood gets nifty performances from his cast, especially the women. Linney is an actress you’re inclined to believe. And Davis has a terrible role as a chief of staff who took the job because she has a thing for the prez (the part is the same as the boss-crazed secretary roles of the 1940s, with a better salary). But with her withering sarcasm and childish amorality, Davis has the absolute power to make a small, crummy role seem fascinating.

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “Absolute Power” Locations:Lincoln Heights, Newport Cinemas, Showboat and Post Falls Credits: Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Judy Davis Running time: 2:01 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Absolute Power:” Hillel Italie/Associated Press: So there’s this film called “Absolute Power.” It’s got Clint Eastwood in it and he plays a cat burglar with a heart of gold who just happens to witness the Secret Service murder the President’s mistress. … What a shame the Eastwood of old didn’t make this film. He’d have marched right into the Oval Office and the whole shebang would have been over in no time. Instead, we get two hours of Eastwood wearing obvious disguises, playing guardian angel to his estranged daughter and endlessly filling his sketchpad. The film is a bore, a total bore. Eastwood’s directing is lifeless and the script’s a dud. Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: Suspense-thrillers are a particularly tricky genre to pull off and the storytelling combo of Goldman and Eastwood has laid this one out to perfection with just the right mix of humor, suspense and action.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “Absolute Power” Locations:Lincoln Heights, Newport Cinemas, Showboat and Post Falls Credits: Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Judy Davis Running time: 2:01 Rating: R

2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “Absolute Power:” Hillel Italie/Associated Press: So there’s this film called “Absolute Power.” It’s got Clint Eastwood in it and he plays a cat burglar with a heart of gold who just happens to witness the Secret Service murder the President’s mistress. … What a shame the Eastwood of old didn’t make this film. He’d have marched right into the Oval Office and the whole shebang would have been over in no time. Instead, we get two hours of Eastwood wearing obvious disguises, playing guardian angel to his estranged daughter and endlessly filling his sketchpad. The film is a bore, a total bore. Eastwood’s directing is lifeless and the script’s a dud. Duane Byrge/The Hollywood Reporter: Suspense-thrillers are a particularly tricky genre to pull off and the storytelling combo of Goldman and Eastwood has laid this one out to perfection with just the right mix of humor, suspense and action.


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