FBI profiler Terry McCaleb almost always gets to the heart of a case. This time, that heart beats inside him. He’s a cardiac patient who received a murder victim’s heart. And the donor’s sister asks him to make good on his second chance by finding the killer. That’s just the first of many twists in a smart, gritty suspense thriller that’s “vintage Eastwood: swift, surprising and very, very exciting” (Jim Svejda, KNX/CBS Radio).
Clint Eastwood produces, directs and stars in this edgy, acclaimed mystery based on Michael Connelly’s novel and scripted by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential). With a superb cast brought to a hard boil playing characters to quicken your pulse and hold you spellbound, Blood Work works exceptionally well.
I'm a Clint Eastwood fan. I'm usually up for anything he's acting in or directing. 'Blood Work' is the exception to my Clint Eastwood fandom rule. Here's a movie that boasts a stellar cast, one of the greatest actors of any generation – not to mention he's also one of the most accomplished directors – and the entire movie feels as predictable and mundane as an average episode of 'Law & Order.' Couple that with the just-shy-of-two-hours runtime and you've got a thriller trying to jog its way to the finish line through molasses.
While he directs, Eastwood also stars as Terry McCaleb. A tough-as-nails FBI agent who, after chasing down a suspect following a grisly murder, finds himself having heart problems. It's clear that McCaleb was on the track of a serial killer since the killer left him cryptic messages written in blood. You know, like all movie serial killers do. The problem is, McCaleb is forced to retire because of his bum heart. He ends up getting a transplant, but that's after he's quit the force and spends his time lounging on his boat/house tied up at the local marina.
McCaleb is approached by a young lady who would like him to find out who killed her sister. McCaleb, ever the grouch, insists that he's not the man for the job. That is until he learns that the heart currently pumping blood through his chest used to belong to this woman's sister. After she was murdered McCaleb got her heart.
What commences is an extremely standard detective drama which isn't helped much by Eastwood's direction. Usually, he's able to conjure uneasy feelings with direction, lighting, and mood. Here we feel more like we've simply stepped into any and all detective dramas ever filmed. Take his movie 'Absolute Power' as an example. On the outside it appears to be a formulaic, politically charged thriller, right down to its color-by-numbers plot, however, what the story lacks in actual story it makes up for in style. The way Eastwood lets the camera linger in that film is great. The way his tracking shots slowly set the scene is superb. Here we get little to none of that. Just like the conventional story, the direction follows suit.
By the middle of the movie, when he actually starts investigating, it becomes blatantly obvious who the killer will turn out to be. It's telegraphed the entire way. The problem here is that the movie earnestly tries to hide who did it, when in fact it's incredibly easy to decipher. When the revelation comes it's even more cheesy because the movie supposes that we have no idea who the killer might be.
I love Eastwood as much as the next person, maybe even more. I think he's made and starred in some transcendent films. I even enjoy his lesser works, but not this one. 'Blood Work' is as boring and tedious as going and actually getting your blood work done. There's even a slight sting from the proverbial needle once you figure out who the killer is, but you still have an hour of the movie to endure.
I thought that watching 'Blood Work' again would give me new insight into a movie that I saw long ago and wasn't so wild about. That didn't happen. If anything, it made me realize how by the numbers this movie really is. It takes absolutely no chances in story or style. It's as conventional as they come, an Eastwood catalog title that can easily be skipped.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Warner Bros. release comes in a standard eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase. The movie is pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc.
I was fairly impressed with Warner's 1080p transfer of 'Blood Work.' Even though it was filmed a decade ago, the transfer here makes it look like a newer movie. Clarity is very nice. Facial detail features every crag and age-line on Mr. Eastwood's weathered face. Hair, freckles, and moles are all visible under a thin layer of filmic grain.
It doesn't look like Warner has used much, if any, DNR on this release. The grain seems to be intact and holds strong throughout the movie. Shadows are well delineated. The opening night scene suffers from some crushing, but not much. The rest of the movie is free from any banding, aliasing, although I did notice shimmering on suits and other textures throughout.
Source noise pops up, but it's very minimal and usually disappears – or is rendered unnoticeable – by the movie's natural grain structure. This is a good looking catalog title. It doesn't look like Warner rushed it at all. It looks like time was spent to get the look right with minimal tampering in the process.
The audio, on the other hand, seems like it's just going through the paces. There isn't anything that pops out here as being sensational or amazing. Simply an audio mix doing its job and that's about it.
The rear channels seem underused, even during the opening sequence, which features a helicopter swooping through the night sky. Sound effects, like gun shots, had brashness to them. They didn't feel as polished as most movies. However, dialogue is always clear even when Eastwood is snarling his lines. The original score by Lennie Niehaus, is a fairly generic thriller soundtrack, but it is given ample room to work as it spreads from the front channels, landing lightly in the rear from time to time.
Again, this audio mix isn't going to really annoy you in any way, it'll simply present the movie and be done with it. There are very few bells and whistles really.
'Blood Work' is so formulaic, so entrenched in the clichés of detective dramas past, that there's no way it's able to work itself out of the mire. Even with the directorial chops of Eastwood, the movie still sinks deeper and deeper in the muck until the "secret" is revealed. That's basically when you hear the movie take one last gasp of breath, and then… glug, glug, glug. Chances are you've already seen 'Blood Work,' or have caught bits and pieces when its aired in the middle of the day on cable. A rental isn't really necessary here, but a rental is more than enough if you simply must see this again.