Warner Bros. // 2002 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 11th, 2012
He's a heartbeat away from catching the killer.
"If you can't protect the integrity of the system, there is no system."
It's been two years since former FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood, A Fistful of Dollars) underwent a heart transplant, and he's determined to remain peacefully retired until the end of his days. Though many have asked him to return to his former line of work, the strain might cause too much damage. As our story begins, a woman named Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus, CSI: Miami) begs Terry to come out of retirement and find her sister's killer. Terry initially declines, but caves in when he's given an astonishing piece of information: he was the recipient of the victim's heart. As Terry begins to piece the clues together, he begins to discover that the case might have implications vastly larger than he ever suspected.
One of the keys to Clint Eastwood's longevity and relevance as an actor/director has been his ability to age gracefully. Sure, he still indulges in heroic moments now and then, but as he's gotten older he's been careful to take on roles that acknowledge his age and physical limitations. Recall the playful scene in Eastwood's Absolute Power in which his character is accused of engaging in an elaborate heist. "If I could do something like that, I'd be the star of my A.A.R.P. meetings," Eastwood chuckles. The iconic actor stopped making Dirty Harry movies once he got to the point where he felt that he would look silly playing the role, and instead found parts that seemed a more natural fit for him. Blood Work is an excellent example, as Eastwood essays a character far past his prime. Terry McCaleb is a man who still has difficulty coming to terms with the fact that there are now potentially serious consequences for doing simple things like running a couple of blocks or attempting to wrestle a suspect to the ground.
The manner in which Blood Work remains mindful of these issues is perhaps its greatest virtue; the movie allows Eastwood to be both thoughtful and self-deprecating about his age without ever transforming into one of those insufferable "Ha, it's funny because he's old!" comedies (something the amiable Space Cowboys was occasionally guilty of). As Terry's investigation progresses, his health begins to decline at a slow but steady rate. This provides the film with an unspoken yet undeniably tense race against the clock of sorts: can this stubborn man find all of the answers before he simply kills himself?
Still, it must be noted that the movie is generally better with tone and character than with plot. The actual murder mystery is a pretty run-of-the-mill affair, and the final twist is telegraphed long ahead of time. Were it not for the gracefulness with which Eastwood directs the film (its enjoyably languorous pace leaves time for plenty of one-on-one conversations between the characters, and the jazzy strains of Lennie Niehaus' score do a nice job of establishing the relaxed tone), we might be dealing with an overqualified waste of time like Along Came a Spider.
Eastwood's typically commanding performance anchors the film, and it's a somewhat softer role than we the actor generally provides in his crime thrillers. We get the impression that Terry has probably softened a good deal with age; that his easy-going demeanor is partially an attempt to keep his blood pressure under control. Eastwood plays the man's quiet intensity superbly and serves as a typically sturdy anchor for the proceedings. There's fine work in supporting roles from Angelica Huston (Smash) as Terry's concerned doctor, Jeff Daniels (Gettysburg) as the film's slacker comic relief and Tina Lifford (Hostage) as the police detective Eastwood confides in. In the (surprisingly frequent) little moments in which these characters stop simply conveying plot details and actually talk to each other, the movie transcends its run-of-the-mill plot.
Blood Work (Blu-ray) has received a decent 2.40:1/1080p transfer which does a nice job of conveying both the shadowy depths of the Sudden Impact-like nighttime crime investigation sequences and the sun-drenched beauty of the daytime scenes. The level of detail is stellar throughout, depth is generally impressive and flesh tones are natural. There are a handful of early shots which look a little soft and black levels are occasionally a bit shaky, but I don't have any serious complaints. As usual for an Eastwood flick, the DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is on the quiet side, but it gets the job done well enough. Don't expect a typically rambunctious crime thriller track and you'll be satisfied by the well-mixed, crisp and clean sound. Supplements are limited to a disposable "The Making of Blood Work" featurette, an engaging interview with Wanda De Jesus, Paul Rodriguez and Clint Eastwood (in Spanish initially, but eventually transitioning to English after Eastwood turns up) and a pair of theatrical trailers.
Blood Work is certainly one of Clint's minor efforts of recent years, but it's nonetheless a film that plays to his strengths. It's hardly an essential addition to your Blu-ray collection, but Eastwood's fans should be pleased with the sturdy audio and video this release offers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R