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Blood Work

Warner Bros. // R // December 24, 2002
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jason Bovberg | posted December 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Michael Connelly, author of the novel Blood Work, is a fine mystery/suspense writer who has an often fatal flaw: He generally insists that the culprit in his whodunits is someone that has been under our nose—and the nose of his detective—the whole time. Making the killer someone close to the investigation, or even a friend, sometimes works, but typically such a revelation requires a suspension of disbelief I'm unwilling to give. One of his rare novels that doesn't rely on such a device is Blood Work, and partially for that reason, it's one of Connelly's better novels.

Clint Eastwood wrecks that in his film version of Blood Work by making the killer someone close to the detective, and therefore—at least, for me—he's wrecked the story. At heart (pardon the pun), the plot of Blood Work is intriguing, and to be sure, it works on the page. But Eastwood's film gets just about everything wrong.

Eastwood portrays Terry McCaleb, a retired FBI agent who is recovering from a heart-transplant operation. He sports an ugly gray scar down the length of his chest that's difficult to look at. Living the good life on a boat down at the marina, with a lazy stoner-type named Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels) for a neighbor, he's still haunted by an unsolved case that gave him a career-ending heart attack. Then, Graciela Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) arrives at his boat, wanting to hire McCaleb as a private investigator to solve the mystery of her sister's murder in a convenience store.

After some fits and starts, some haggling with the LA police department, and against the wishes of his doctor (a somewhat shrill Angelica Huston), McCaleb finds himself embroiled in the case. Infuriatingly, the movie never really finds its pulse (oops, another pun). I never truly felt involved in the story, and the film kept displaying ridiculous behavior: In one scene, McCaleb ignores a gigantic clue that should be shouting for his attention. In another scene, he yanks a shotgun from the trunk of his car and starts firing away at a parked car just cuz it looks funny. The story led me to wonder what weird effect that heart was really having on him.

What makes all this so infuriating is that there's a great story buried here. At a certain point, the film offers up a brilliant modus operandi on the part of the killer. Were you reading the book, you might say to yourself, Damn, that is a top-notch twist! and you'd keep flipping those pages to see how it turns out. But in Blood Work, the revelation is buried inside a film of surprising flatness.

And this is not a case of dawning realization that you're watching a subpar film. Blood Work starts its incompetence almost immediately, with an utterly unwatchable performance from Paul Rodriguez as a cracking-wise cop. His character will make you want to stab the Off button on your remote. Later, a romantic entanglement enters the story, asking far, far too much of its audience. And when the killer's identity is revealed, you'll feel as if your DVD has somehow spliced over to some clueless film made by the worst Hollywood hack. By the end, you're left weeping.

I say "weeping" because how can the man responsible for Unforgiven hand us this thoroughly forgettable and even offensive film?

HOW'S IT LOOK?

Warner presents Blood Work in a sharp anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. Detail is far above average, reaching into backgrounds, and colors are vivid. I noticed no dirt or grime, and I also noticed no halos or artifacting. Impressive.

HOW'S IT SOUND?

The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is nicely enveloping. Although most of the sound is centered at the front, the surrounds are used for environmental effects such as car noise and background voices. Dialog is clear and natural. One thing I noticed is that the film is almost totally devoid of a score. But when it's evident, it's rich and full.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

The first extra is the 18-minute Making Blood Work, what amounts to a series of interviews with Eastwood, Daniels, Huston, De Jesus, and Rodriguez. After the experience of the film, I didn't look on Rodriguez kindly, but they all appeared to have a fabulous time making the film.

The second extra is the odd 15-minute A Conversation in Spanish with Clint Eastwood, Wanda De Jesus, and Paul Rodriguez. This is a kind of fluffy piece that praises Eastwood a lot and talks about the story of the film. And yes, you can watch it with subtitles.

You also get Cast & Crew information, a theatrical trailer, and a teaser trailer in anamorphic widescreen.

WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?

Read the book.

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