Eastwood impresses with Absolute Power

Sarah Wolf

How is it that Clint Eastwood accomplishes what most action-adventure stars only grunt about?

My man Eastwood has managed, with Absolute Power, to direct, produce and star in a suspense-thriller with characters who actually pop off the screen, in almost — gasp! — human fashion.

Eastwood plays a man that most people would find repugnant: He is Luther Whitney, a thief. And I don’t mean extra packets of ketchup at McDonald’s. A jewel thief, and I’m talkin’ big-time.

It’s during one of his night shifts that he gets tossed in “a real shitstorm.” While foisting jewels from the vault of an elderly billionaire, the man’s young and beautiful wife comes home with company.

And not just any company: Alan Richmond, President of these United States, is played by Gene Hackman. And Richmond didn’t stop by for directions, if ya get my meanin’.

Anyway, Whitney witnesses the murder of the young woman that night. This is followed by the elaborate coverup by the Secret Service (Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert) and White House Chief of Staff (Judy Davis) so Richmond wouldn’t get caught — ahem — with his pants down.

Add a few extra sizzling ingredients, like Ed Harris as smooth-as-a-chrome-dome Detective Seth Frank and Laura Linney as Whitney’s estranged daughter Kate, and you have one pretty complex plot. This ain’t no Schwartzenegger film where the entire storyline can be summed up in a sentence and a couple of grunts.

And that’s what’s so cool about it. It’s certainly no brain-squeezer, but you can’t leave the gray matter at home. Eastwood, Harris and Linney are wonderful three-dimensional characters; they actually seem real and human.

There’s one especially cool scene between Harris and Eastwood where the chemistry is almost palpable. It goes beyond the typical cat-and-mouse game between the cop and the crook,where the two exchange I’m-badder-than-you one-liners, mostly because Eastwood is not the rotten-to-the-core “bad guy.”

The scene actually reveals a lot of similarities between the two men, and it looks as though they actually understand each other.

I have a small gripe, though: I was thoroughly frustrated with the ending. Maybe I have seen too many Bruce Willis movies, but I was looking forward to some real bone-crunching at the moment of truth — or at least a few indictments.

I don’t wanna give it away, but I felt like I’d been feasting on Godiva chocolates throughout the rest of the movie, and when the ending came up, it was as though someone handed me a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. The movie was thoroughly empty and unsatisfying.

But that won’t color the rest of the movie for me — I still dug it. I will always think of Eastwood as the man who gets the job done — and without a lot of accolades or explosions.