Blood Work (2002)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Produced by Clint Eastwood
Watching a star of Clint Eastwood’s magnitude — whose anger can be as explosive as TNT and whose wit could turn as light as a feather — exiled in Blood Work with opportunity to do neither is like watching Michael Jordan come out of retirement in 2001 to play with torn cartilage in the drab prison blue uniform of the Washington Wizards. Yes, it’s The Greatest out there, but this isn’t anything resembling a great movie. Based on a crime novel by Michael Connelly, whose best cop procedurals filter darkness through his expertise on the LAPD as well as the City of Angels, this adaptation was either phoned in by Brian Helgeland or was already hackneyed to begin with. Either way, the results are inexcusable. Tailor made for somebody like Benjamin Bratt to star in for A&E, Blood Work adds up to one of the weaker efforts Eastwood has given in decades.
This is TV back when TV was bad for you. It’s T.J. Hooker without William Shatner or his hairpiece. There’s a conceit planted here involving an FBI profiler chasing the killer of the woman whose donated heart now resides in his chest. Sounds promising, but the script puts FBI profiling and the fragility of new organ recipients on the shelf to focus instead on killers and the clever clues they like to tease cops with. The suspense is nonexistent because the clues are obvious to everyone except the adults in the movie. Eastwood cast two great actors opposite himself in Jeff Daniels and Anjelica Huston, while Wanda De Jesus gives a strong performance as his love interest in a superficial script that doesn’t seem to care about the talent it’s stranding. Lennie Niehaus composed a superb retro lounge music score used far too sparingly.
FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) responds to the latest murder show by the Code Killer, who taunts McCaleb by leaving numerical clues scrawled in blood. Barely tolerated by LAPD detectives (Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh) envious of his media attention, McCaleb spots a pair of Converse sneakers in the crowd similar to ones that left footprints at the crime scene. Giving chase, McCaleb suffers a heart attack. Two years later, the now retired McCaleb recovers from a heart transplant and is compelled by his doctor (Anjelica Huston) to make the most of his gift. Living on a boat moored in Long Beach, McCaleb is approached by Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) and asked to look into the murder of her sister Gloria, who shared McCaleb’s rare blood type and ended up donating her heart to him.
McCaleb humors the LAPD into letting him review the surveillance tape of Gloria’s unsolved murder, which appears to be a random convenience store robbery gone bad. Seeking help from his protégé Jaye Winston (Tina Lifford) — a detective with the L.A. County Sheriff — McCaleb gets a look at the murder book. He discovers an assailant wearing a ski mask shot a victim at an ATM with the same weapon only two weeks before Gloria was killed. Employing dim-witted boat bum named Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels) to serve as a driver, McCaleb searches for a connection between the two victims, much to the disapproval of his doctor. He gets to know Gloria’s young son and becomes closer to her sister, but it’s not long before the Code Killer resurfaces with a new message for McCaleb.
Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 147 users: 54% for Blood Work
Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 64 for Blood Work
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