`Blood Work' is familiar and predictable

Eastwood gets a new ticker in this anemic whodunit

Movie Review

August 09, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Blood Work pits Clint Eastwood as a retired FBI profiler with a rare blood type - and a recent heart transplant - against the man who shot his female heart donor. The title is an apt pun for the hero's medical and detective operations. If you put the word Tired first, it would perfectly describe the movie.

As written by Brian Helgeland (from a novel by Michael Connelly) and directed by Eastwood, this low-key L.A. thriller mixes the forensic detective work done with more sophistication on half a dozen current TV shows with an ultimate solution culled from the bottom half of a B-film double-bill. It's a dire combination.

Even those who've had their fill of crime-scene analysis might have relished this film's old-fashioned duel of good and evil. Too bad audiences smell the rat immediately and wonder why the characters can't catch a whiff.

The identity of the culprit isn't the only fatal predictability in Blood Work. Every emotion, as well as every plot twist, gets telegraphed from miles away through worn-out wires. The gifted cast can do little with types as fatigued as the female cardiologist (Anjelica Huston), who takes no macho guff, the Mexican-American cop (Paul Rodriguez), who resents the FBI man's fame, or the goofy overgrown slacker (Jeff Daniels), who lives on a boat next to Eastwood in San Pedro Harbor and becomes his driver.

Hope rises, but briefly, when Wanda De Jesus shows up as the sister of the slain donor, who persuades Eastwood to solve this murder although the LAPD has treated it as one more convenience-store killing. De Jesus imbues her character with a dark, impassioned glow that becomes incongruous when she and the ever-stoic Clint veer into a clinch.

In this film, Eastwood as a director fails to give obligatory scenes - like his romantic hook-up with the heroine, or his final confrontation with the demonic bad guy - the satisfying impact of dramatic inevitabilities. His timing is off, and the script veers from sternness to silliness too erratically for the good of the actors.

Space Cowboys, Eastwood's last picture, was a minor achievement, but at least there Eastwood brought out the warmth of male-bonding cliches - he made the familiar mildly entertaining. Blood Work is cold and boring.

Blood Work

Starring Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Wanda De Jesus, Paul Rodriguez, and Anjelica Huston

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated R (violence, language)

Time 111 minutes

Released by Warner Bros.

SUN SCORE * 1/2

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