It's safe to say I was far from entertained by my first viewing of 'The Rookie.' The two hour run time seemed to crawl by painfully. A little past the one hour mark, I realized I had entered the film with the completely wrong state of mind. This isn't an action film.
'The Rookie' is a comedy. It's just that, for most of its time, it's not a very funny one.
Before Clint Eastwood played the part of a pissed off, past his prime porch dweller in 'Gran Torino,' he played a pissed off, past his prime policeofficer Nick Pulovski. After the death of his partner in an attempted bust on a group of car hijackers, Pulovski is assigned a new partner, the green behind the ears rookie David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen). Taking down the illicit business of the man who gunned down his friend is high on Pulovski's "to do" list, but when the German baddy Strom (Raul Julia) outmaneuvers the odd cop duo, due to Ackerman's inability to perform under pressure, "the rookie" must become a pro. Ain't nothin' gonna stop the vet and the newbie from dishin' out the whoop ass Dirty Harry-style.
I've grown quite fond of Mr. Eastwood in recent years, both for his acting and direction. The man is a legend, plain and simple, but damn if he isn't fallible. His prolific career has had its share of missteps, and 'The Rookie' earns a spot on my shitlist.
Taken as an action film, 'The Rookie' is a complete and utter failure. There's nothing original here, and it's nothing more than one of the old Hollywood instant-money recipe films, bottling an established actor with a hot up-and-comer, and calling it a day. There's no brains in this entire operation, it's just testosterone and piss and vinegar. We get our fair share of shoot outs, a fun opening sequence (the highway chase has to be the highlight of the film. Too bad it was used so damn early), and tons of smarmy retorts and banter mid fight. It's almost like a cheesy vigilante cop comic book brought to life, so over the top that driving a car through a building to avoid a massive explosion, and smarting off as the vehicle careens seems like a good idea.
But 'The Rookie' doesn't maintain its over the top persona, also trying to create tension and drama, and it fails, miserably. Are we to give a damn that Pulovski is being held hostage, when he's getting more (wink wink) than he ever was before? Do the sneering villain, his scarred faced henchman, and the femme fatale have anything to do other than be dastardly villains?
Taken as a comedy, even an unintentional one, there still aren't enough laughs to sustain interest. The cornball dialogue is a hoot, as it's so damn campy and stupid that it's hard to take anything seriously. The stringy, wild hair on Pulovski's head is too reminiscent of Nick Nolte's DUI mugshot to not be distracting, while Sheen is still in the "appear shirtless for at least five scenes in a film for sex appeal" phase of his career, and the attempts to sell his character as a bad ass only make him look like a total schizophrenic.
At one point, we see Raul Julia enter a room through the luggage carousel, and suddenly the crowd disperses as some standard issue background actor screams, "He's got a gun!" (Like a guy with a peashooter could really gun down an entire crowd. Grow some balls, people!) Then good ol' Clint makes the same entrance, as if it were some kind of wacky obstacle course, with a gun in each hand. Missed opportunity by all involved. If someone would have lingered, they could have shouted "Holy shit, he's got two guns!!! Tsk, tsk.
'The Rookie' is a film unsure of what it wants to be. Is it a buddy cop comedy, or a cop drama with the unwanted new partner replacing the former close friend (who is not mourned for even a moment once Sheen enters the picture)? Is it a serious action film, or one so over the top that a carrot can kill a man? One can make the case that this is a film so unaware of its own identity that it tries to mimic everything around it, all the popular cop dramas and comedies of the late '80's, and this is the end result. This film isn't so bad that it's good again. It's just an odd duck in the middle of an otherwise pretty freaking stellar career for Eastwood, and about par for the course for Sheen.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'The Rookie' is housed on a Region Free BD25 Single Layer Disc, that has no pre-menu content, and a menu, despite the fact that the disc defaults to the lossless mix, and there really isn't much in terms of extras. This film is also included in the ten film 'Clint Eastwood Collection' being released on the same day.
WB brings 'The Rookie' to Blu-ray with a VC-1 1080p encode at 2.40:1. The result seems pretty half-assed. The picture never leaps, but often trips over its own feet. The picture comes up fuzzy and flat randomly, and never seems to truly understand that it's supposed to high-def. Some incredibly blurry shots pop up from time to time, and backgrounds, which are normally pretty nicely defined, have a tendency to throw all that away when blurriness comes a knockin'. Delineation is subpar, with numerous night shots making characters and settings completely indistinguishable from the great abyss. Artifacting is present, lightly, but on the bright side, there are no massive ringing issues, and grain doesn't appear to be scrubbed -- the picture is blurry enough on its own! There is a bit of wobble from time to time, and one could argue whether this is telecine wobble or not. What really matters, regardless of origin, is that it's there. (Some may argue that the wobbling is the best action on screen!)
'The Rookie' is given an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, along with a pile of dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks and a hefty pile of subtitle options. Apparently WB thinks this film has global appeal.
Anyway, the lossless track provided for this film is pretty blasé. The entire mix is incredibly front heavy, so much so that it almost falls flat on its face. There are a few bits of localization here and there, and a little bit of soundtrack/score migration to the rear channels, but this one doesn't even try. Busy rooms feel flat and quiet, civilized almost, despite whatever is shown on screen. There's some nice strength and emphasis in shots from Eastwood's .45, but no bullet in the film moves through any channel, as they just register from where they were fired, and that's that. The big explosion (hey, it's in the menu, and was on the theatrical posters, so it's hard to call that a spoiler!) has some great thunder and a little bit of bass, but then the entire affair goes back to trying to go 75 miles an hour while in neutral, uphill. Sure, it could have been worse, but this one feels incredibly cheesy and dated.
The lone bonus extravagance for 'The Rookie' is a two minute Theatrical Trailer in standard definitinon.
June 1st can't come soon enough for me, as the massive slate of Clint Eastwood films has me chomping at the bit. It took me until my adult years to truly appreciate the career of one of the greatest actor/directors still alive and working today, and playing catch up through his filmography is a great treat. Until the random film like 'The Rookie' pops up. This film is just a mess. With pretty bad video, along with average audio, and the tiniest of supplement packages, this Eastwood film doesn't justify the investment required, be it time or money. Just pass, and focus on the other goodies coming out instead.