Directed by Richard Tuggle*
Written by Richard Tuggle
Produced by Clint Eastwood, Fritz Manes
Like a quarter shining in the gutter, Tightrope could stand a polish, but if you catch it on a rainy afternoon or late at night, this unabashed B-movie offers spills and thrills aplenty. Escape From Alcatraz scribe Richard Tuggle took his cue from a series of unsolved rapes in the Bay Area. His research resulted in a cop thriller sold to Clint Eastwood under the condition the screenwriter be allowed to make his directorial debut. Tuggle’s struggles on the set threatened his job security on day 1, but DGA guidelines — amended after Eastwood replaced Philip Kaufman as director of The Outlaw Josey Wales with himself — mandated that Tuggle remain on and receive a credit for directing. Whether you believe Eastwood collaborated with Tuggle from there or it was more likely the other way around, whoever directed Tightrope managed a good film that occasionally flirts with being a very good one.
Tightrope could either be considered a Cannon Films styled cop thriller like Cobra or Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects made with a real script and much better actors, or it could be considered just another Cannon Films styled cop thriller. The business of a serial killing rapist on the loose in a Red Light District is routine, repetitive and almost completely indistinguishable for a hundred other bad movies and TV shows. Where the picture shows life are its domestic scenes — where Eastwood’s chemistry with his 11-year-old daughter Alison glows — and the cop’s relationship with a rape counselor played by Geneviève Bujold. Eastwood relocated the script from San Francisco to New Orleans, and the offbeat French Canadian actress proves as alluring as the city itself. The killer is given no substance, but since the family he menaces is something we care about, at the very least, Tightrope provides a riveting ride to the finish.
In New Orleans, divorced police captain Wes Block (Clint Eastwood) cancels plans to watch the Saints game with his two young daughters (Alison Eastwood, Jennifer Beck) when a prostitute is found strangled to death in her home. When another working girl turns up drowned in a bathhouse, rape counselor Beryl Thibodeaux (Geneviève Bujold) presses Block to involve her office in the investigation. Prowling the brothels of The Big Easy to interview prostitutes, Block finds the time to indulge his dark side with a popsicle sucking tart (Rebecca Perle) and a nurse (Margaret Howell) among others moonlighting in the sex trade. Personal items Block leaves at his nocturnal activities — handcuffs, a necktie — begin to turn up alongside the bodies of the prostitutes he’s frequented.
Once she complains to City Hall about his lack of cooperation, Beryl Thibodeaux receives a visit from Block at the non-profit rape center she runs. The cop later seeks Beryl out at her gym and over an oyster lunch on the Mississippi, bluntly shares his attraction for her. She accepts his invitation to go trick or treating with his girls in the French Quarter and receives their approval to continue dating their dad. Meanwhile, Block and his partner (Dan Hedaya) trace glass fragments at the murder scenes to a local beer bottling plant. The killer responds by visiting Block’s daughters, killing their nanny and almost strangling Block. The cop narrows his manhunt onto one suspect in particular, but while he’s staking out the man’s apartment, the killer goes hunting for Beryl.
Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 11 users: 82% for Tightrope
Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available
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