Veteran FBI agent Terrence McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) suffers a heart attack while chasing a serial murderer known as The Code Killer; he leaves a digital code at the crime scene. After waiting two years for a heart transplant and retiring, McCaleb is contacted by Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) who asks him to find the masked bandit responsible for her sister's death. McCaleb reluctantly agrees to help Graciella when she reveals that her sister's heart is the one now keeping him alive. His investigations lead back to the trail of The Code Killer.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Acting is about losing your ego and its one of the reasons why Clint Eastwood has been at the top of his game for over forty years. While many ageing male stars bland their careers out with a repetition of physically robust and morally spotless roles, Eastwood's has flourished in his 60s and beyond by his willingness to take on flawed and vulnerable characters. Unforgiven, In The Line of Fire, True Crime and now Blood Work show Eastwood as an actor unafraid to confront his own mortality. In this, his 23rd outing behind the cameras, he also reinforces his status as one of the best classical directors working today. Without the need to indulge in the flashy editing techniques and slam bang camera work that disguises a lack of imagination in so many younger directors, Eastwood rolls Blood Work out with smooth and precise skill. Built on a neatly constructed screenplay by L.A. Confidential writer Brian Helgeland, Blood Work is an effective crime thriller with richer themes and stronger character development than the average whodunnit. The procedure may be familiar but the telling is fresh as McCaleb defies the orders of sharp-tongued doctor Anjelica Huston and agrees to help Graciella (Wanda De Jesus) find out who killed her sister. McCaleb's relationships with Graciella, his next-door neighbour Buddy (Jeff Daniels) and LA cops played by Paul Rodriguez and Tina Lifford aren't just the means to advance the narrative from A to Z. Each has a particular flavour and tells us something interesting about this veteran who can't resist the chance to crack one last case. Blood Work is a classy item by a legend who may have nothing left to prove but still has the chops and drive to show how its done.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
That charismatic something that kept Clint Eastwood’s career afloat all these years has not waned as he grew old – it just matured, like a wedge of English cheddar. Sharp at first bite, deeply mellow as it lingers. Blood Work works, partly because Eastwood isn’t fighting age; he’s using it. It’s everything from experience to the deeply embedded character of a steely hero whose flaws are part of his make up, a part we keenly identify as our very own. What man wouldn’t want to age into Clint’s psyche or image? But there are other pleasures in this film, namely everyone else in the cast. Drawn out by the minimalist Eastwood directing style, Anjelica Huston as his doctor and Jeff Daniels as his next boat neighbour are both splendid, intriguing characters, especially as they have to create them quickly for us. Wanda de Jesus is warm and wonderful as the woman in distress, never overdoing it. The love scene works, too, be-jeezus, and I don’t even have the hots for Clint. I do have a reservation about some of the screenplay (dialogue as well as content), but maybe it’s because the writer is someone of the stature of Brian Helgeland, from whom one expects greatness at all times. I like Blood Work for its straight ahead style and its clarity, taking the police procedural into human drama with the added punch of a twist in the tale.
Review by Louise Keller:
A top detective story that’s layered with sublime characterisations, Blood Work is superb entertainment. Gripping, moving and filled with wonderful moments, it’s a joy to watch Clint Eastwood at work in this his 18th film as producer, his 23rd as director and 44th as star. And at this point in his career, Eastwood is astute enough to use everything to his advantage, including his age. The film contains all the ingredients you would expect from this polished performer: splendid direction, vital script and terrific performances. The film begins and ends with laid-back jazz, but in between we become connected to Eastwood’s protagonist, just as he is connected to the crime scene, the victim and all the elements, when at the top of his game in the FBI. We quickly understand the type of person that Terry McCaleb is. A thorough professional, he is a man of few words on the job – unlike one detective colleague who can’t keep his tongue still for a moment. ‘Once you can joke about it, you shouldn’t be doing it,’ says McCaleb, when Detective Arrango (Paul Rodriguez) cracks an off-joke at a gruesome crime scene. McCaleb charms everyone – just as Eastwood charms us. It’s an absorbing story, as we follow McCaleb in his pursuit of the killer, when his decency drags him out of retirement. There are red herrings and twists, a romance that works surprisingly well, and a good balance of laid back humour with good lines. ‘Any clues lead to the beach?’ asks Buddy, when McCaleb tells his unofficial partner that they go where the clues lead. It’s all about the forgotten detail, which he sets out to discover. The characters are beautifully written: we feel as though we know them. And what a top cast with Anjelica Huston as the caring, no-nonsense cardiologist, Jeff Daniels as the idle, harmonica-playing neighbour Buddy, Wanda de Jesus as the warm, tenacious stranger and Tina Lifford as the compassionate former colleague. There are plenty of tense moments as the cat and mouse game reaches its thrilling conclusion. It’s edgy, stimulating and absolutely satisfying. I enjoyed every moment of Blood Work with its juxtaposition of good and evil, drama and comedy and characters that we feel we know. As for the title – you’ll have to wait until the very end of the film for its full significance to be revealed.
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CLINT EASTWOOD interview by Jenny Cooney Carrillo.
BLOOD WORK (M)
CAST: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Anjelica Huston
PRODUCER: Clint Eastwood
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
SCRIPT: Brian Helgeland, Michael Connelly (novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern
EDITOR: Joel Cox
MUSIC: Lennie Niehaus
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Henry Bumstead
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 14, 2002