June 24, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Blood Work

Clint Eastwood has certainly had a long, storied, successful career. He has been an actor, a writer, a producer, and a director, sometimes wearing many hats at the same time. He has also been associated with iconic characters such as the Man with No Name and Dirty Harry. He has always associated himself with projects that interest him without regards to box office potential. You have to respect that. Something else I like about him is that he generally plays his age. Where many actors play younger than they are, Eastwood remembers his age. This fact is on display in movies such as Space Cowboys and Absolute Power. It is also front and center in the film a hand, Blood Work.

Blood Work, based on a novel by Michael Connelly, is a murder mystery whose protagonist is a retired FBI agent who recently had a heart transplant. It is a story that never lets its protagonist forget his condition (he is constantly being told he looks bad). It is a unique feel for a major movie release, however it is a shame it did not turn out any better than it did. Yes, Blood Work may have some interesting elements, but it is far from a good film. Sure, it is worth watching, but not necessarily one to revisit often.

As we meet not yet retired FBI Special Agent Terry McCaleb (Eastwood), he is on the hunt for a killer dubbed "Code Killer." He is clearly not a prime physical specimen, but we still watch him chase after a suspect. He huffs and puffs his way down the street and into an alley where he hits a chain link fence and collapses with a pained look on his face, firing a few shots at the killer, who looks at him in the fashion of a bemused silhouette. 

The film jumps ahead two years and Terry is being checked by his doctor (Anjelica Huston) a few months out from a heart transplant. He is retired and lives on a houseboat. Well, he returns home to find Graciella (Wanda de Jesus) waiting for him. She wants him to investigate the murder of her sister. He declines at first, he is old and retired, after all, but then she says something to him that changes his mind and he decides to take the case.

Not wanting to drive since the transplant, he gets neighboring boat bum, Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels) to play chauffeur for him. He talks to the police detectives (Paul Rodriguez and Dylan Walsh), who are no exactly the most helpful of folks, and goes to the crime scene. He proceeds with the investigation although most of those around him encourage him not to, he is not in any shape to be doing an in depth murder investigation. McCaleb soldiers on, looking up evidence, seeing things in ways the detectives don't.

At one point McCaleb says that the case is likely to hinge on a small piece of evidence that most feel is unimportant. It is a telling line that puts the whole thriller aspect of the movie in perspective. Unfortunately, this is not a movie that will let those small details go unnoticed. Lingering shots, repeated flashes, and other techniques draw attention to the so-called small details. It goes a long way to taking the mystery out of things.

Blood Work is a straight forward, workmanlike thriller that feels padded out. It is not a bad watch, but in the end, it all feels like it has been done before and done better. I was willing to go with the plot for most of the film, but as the ending approached, it began to feel even more run of the mill.

Fortunately, it is not all a loss. The way Clint Eastwood approaches the character is fantastic. The man just has so much going on in his face and behind the eyes. He brings a real humanity to the role and makes it very easy to believe in him. He never forgets is age or that he has someone else's heart. I suspect this is what attracted him to the role, the idea of playing age appropriate and not a superhero. It is this that makes the movie as interesting as it is. For this movie to work, it is all about buying into McCaleb, not so much the actual plot but the character.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in its original ratio of 2.35:1 and looks really good. The movie has a nice, consistent level of detail with good color representation. Close ups look particularly good, especially with regards to Eastwood's face. Also, it looks god in the dark. While I am not a fan of the climax, some of those scenes inside the old boat look fantastic.

Sound is represented by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that does its job. It is not the most dynamic I have ever heard, but it does immerse the viewer nicely. There is nice use of surrounds, especially when hearing bullet ricochets. Dialogue is crisp and centered. Overall, nothing to make it really stand out, juet it never disappoints.

  • Making Blood Work. Typical behind the scenes bit with interviews about the characters and story. Be careful as it does spoil the ending.
  • A Conversation in Spanish with Clint Eastwood, Wanda de Jesus, and Paul Rodriguez. The title says exactly what it is. It is intercut with some clips from the movie in English. 
  • Trailers. The teaser and full theatrical trailers are included.
Bottomline. Not a great movie, much of the plot feels by the numbers an not exactly thrilling. What makes it work is Eastwood's performance. Terry McCaleb is an interesting character to get to know. While the plot feels programmed, the characters are much more natural and make it worth watching.

Mildly Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Blood Work on Blogcritics

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