2/4, 2000s, Clint Eastwood, Crime, Review

Blood Work

#37 in my ranking of Clint Eastwood’s films.

Every law enforcement film Clint Eastwood made that wasn’t a Dirty Harry film feels like a reaction to Dirty Harry. Blood Work feels like, “What if Harry Callahan got really old and had heart problems?” I’m actually kind of surprised this isn’t an outright entry in the Dirty Harry franchise. Of course, Eastwood isn’t playing a San Francisco police detective but an FBI agent, but he’s not that far removed in temperament from Callahan. That is pretty obviously what drew Eastwood to the material because not a whole lot else in the film is all that interesting. This isn’t any sort of disaster of a film. It’s a perfectly competent, if incredibly predictable, little mystery thriller based on a novel by Michael Connelly.

Terry McCaleb (Eastwood) is an FBI agent on the trail of a killer called the “code murderer” because he leaves behind a nine-digit code at every crime scene he creates. This has gained a very public following with media swarming the latest crime scene where McCaleb determines based on some blood on the shoes, that the killer is there watching. He gets into a chase, shoots, and ends up collapsing with a heart issue before he can get to him. Skip ahead two years, and McCaleb has just received a heart transplant that gets him back on his feet thanks to the efforts of his doctor (Angelica Huston). He lives on a houseboat with a neighbor, Jasper (Jeff Daniels). One day, he’s approached by Graciella (Wanda de Jesus) with the information that Terry carries the heart of her sister, Gloria (Maria Quiban), who was murdered the same day that Terry’s heart became available. She begs him to help investigate the murder of her sister, and he decides that he has some duty to do so since her sister’s heart is now pumping his blood.

So, have you ever seen a movie before? Do you think that this killer will have some relation to the killer that Terry had been chasing before his heart attack? If not, why not? You should probably start with another movie as your first movie ever. Also, why is Jeff Daniels playing such a worthless character? Oh, that’s obvious too. You really should choose another movie to be your first. There are much better movies out there.

The easy predictability of the film wouldn’t really be a problem if there was some other narrative meat on the bones of the film, but there isn’t that much. There’s Terry trying to do good by Gloria through his work and with Graciella and Gloria’s young son Raymond (Mason Lucero). There’s him trying to manage his health with the increased stress of working a case despite his doctor’s protestations. There are his interactions with the police and sheriff’s offices that range from amusingly antagonistic to efficiently professional. It’s not a whole lot, though.

The mystery, while the solution is eminently predictable from very early in the film, is fine in terms of how it plays out and the mechanics of it. Targeting people with Terry’s blood type in order to find him a transplant is a neat twist on a serial killer tale. This isn’t exactly M, here, but it’s a neat little twist.

Really, there’s not much to talk about in this film, it’s so wane. The mystery isn’t terribly compelling, though there are some interesting twists on the conventions. Everything outside the mystery is basic and mildly entertaining at best. The finale of the film on a derelict ship is ridiculous, but not enough to be really fun. It doesn’t embrace the more exploitative elements to have that sort of lurid amusement, and the story takes itself too seriously to work with such an obvious twist always on the horizon.

Performances are professional and what you’d expect at a minimum from an Eastwood directed effort, but it really feels like his heart wasn’t in this one (haha!). What appealed to him was a sliver of the whole thing, and even that wasn’t very interesting to people not named Clint Eastwood, I don’t think.

Meh. It’s not terrible. It’s watchable, but not a whole lot else.

Rating: 2/4

4 thoughts on “Blood Work”

  1. I wonder how ‘Blood Work’ would pair with ‘Falling Down’?

    We are nearly at the end of Eastwood’s Sunset phase (In the Line of Fire is probably the start of it and the rest has been falling action). Once again, aging out of your career is a major theme and I suspect is the hook that got Clint involved in Connolly’s story.

    This is a ‘straight down the middle’ thriller. The ‘what if a serial killer was your Buddy’ (get it?!) theme is handled in fiction elsewhere much better. (Heartsick by Chelsea Cain comes to mind) but the source material isn’t bad.

    I kinda dislike Graciella though. First she guilt trips a sick, retired man in her own quest for revenge and then her final pointless drowning of a dying man calls to mind the worst moments of Gangs of New York with Bill the Butcher’s death. Then she gets ‘rewarded’ by getting a…I don’t know father figure in Clint at the end? (their relationship feels weird)

    I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it. This is another one of those movies where the story of the adaptation is probably more interesting than the actual final Hollywood product.


    1. I wonder if this is one of the half dozen roles that Clint decided was going to be his last in front of the camera (the first being Unforgiven). It would have been a rather shit way to go out, though I can’t say how much better Cry Macho is than this. At least not yet. Soon.

      I say that because it does kind of feel like Eastwood saying goodbye to Dirty Harry for the last time, and I really get the sense that Eastwood was more intimately tied to the character of Harry Callahan than he ever felt towards the Man With No Name stuff that took up a couple of years of his life in his youth. Eastwood was playing Harry himself for over fifteen years across five movies, so saying goodbye to something like that feels more substantial personally to Clint than saying goodbye to his Western character, which was never all that unified around a single character or even vision of the West.

      But, yeah…such a bleh way to go out on the idea.


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