"The Clever Crook Controls the Cop"
In BLOOD WORK, retired FBI Director Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood), who has recently had a heart transplant, is pulled back into detective work when he finds out that the woman whose heart he has was murdered. This is an exciting Clint Eastwood mystery marred by too much language and violence and some sub-par production work, but espousing a generally moral worldview.
BLOOD WORK begins with an ominous message in blood, inviting retired FBI Director Terrell McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) to catch the serial killer that just left another victim shot to death. Having just undergone heart transplant surgery, the angry McCaleb is forbidden by his doctor (Anjelica Huston) to bite the bait and work on this or any other police case. His mind is soon changed, however, when the lovely Graciela Rivers (Wanda DeJesus) informs him that he now owns the heart of her sister, Gloria – a fresh murder victim.
McCaleb wastes no time pushing past his abrasive police buddies and insinuating himself into the Gloria Torrez case. Using Krispy Kreme Donuts, he talks a couple guys into letting him see the surveillance video of the convenience store where Gloria was murdered. He studies the tape from his houseboat and is visited by his boating neighbor, Buddy Noone (Jeff Daniels), who does what his name indicates and buddies up to the irritated McCaleb, trying to be a junior detective. Noone is funny and personable, though, so McCaleb finally lets him stay.
As the case begins to unfold, McCaleb realizes that the man who murdered Gloria is the one who has taunted him with the messages in blood. Using his skill at noticing small details (“These cases always turn on some small detail”), McCaleb finds that his killer always takes one item from each victim – like a single earring, a dangling crucifix, sunglasses, etc. He uses the trail of these items to lead him to the next shocking level of the investigation.
To complicate matters, McCaleb finds himself falling for Graciella and her young, orphaned nephew, and trying to weigh out his ethical responsibilities to all parties. His doctor is furious at him because he starts running a fever and having heart pains, and the killer is continuing to taunt him.
McCaleb wonders if the final detail that solves the case will make itself known before his heart fails again. Will more victims have to die before he can solve his taunter’s questions? Is there a future for him and Graciella? Might there be a traitor among his cronies? What does his rare blood type have to do with these murders? These and other pressing questions are answered as an unsettling mystery unfolds.
BLOOD WORK has all the fun Clint Eastwood-isms that his fans come to love and expect, especially the clever one-liners with “the voice.” There is the hokey and way-overused element of the cop who lives on the houseboat, and some of the production values are more like a television movie than a big screen feature. For instance, there are several shots of people in offices with the over-used striped light from window blinds falling over them. Many of the shots are flatly lit and boring, with few interesting camera angles or special effects.
The worldview in BLOOD WORK is moral in that McCaleb does want to do the right thing and puts himself last in his decision-making. He is upset that he, and not a younger man, got the new heart when a woman died. (It was only his rare blood type that allowed for the fit.) He is also tolerant of the weaknesses of others, even when they inconvenience him, and he risks his life to stop the murderer and his terrorizing of innocents.
BLOOD WORK portrays religious symbols, such as the crucifix, and there are humorous one-liners such as, “It’ll stand out like a whore in church.” The secondary tone is that of random, chaotic, inevitability, though good does win out over evil in the end.
There are, however, ongoing racial slams between McCaleb and one of the Hispanic detectives who hollers, “Just because you’ve got a Mexican heart doesn’t mean you’re Mexican!” McCaleb jabs back at him and causes him to curse in Spanish. Another guy uses the word “Spic” to describe those in the case. Another man under investigation is Russian, and he’s portrayed with some Russian stereotypes.
Overall, this is a typical Clint Eastwood drama/action movie, marred by too much foul language and some graphic violence. Jeff Daniels does a fabulous job with his intriguing character, and the writer does a solid job of storytelling. Some might guess the mystery too early, but the clues are pretty well disguised for the rest of the audience.
(BB, C, Ro, LLL, VVV, S, A, D, M) Moral worldview with protagonist truly desiring to use his gifts to triumph over evil (even during his own time of weakness) and wanting others to receive life more than himself with some Christian elements and Romantic elements portraying life as darkly chaotic and random with the crazed decisions of some determining the destinies of others; excessive language including 40 obscenities, about half of those strong, and six profanities; strong violence with numerous clips of woman and man shot in head, dead bodies of murder victims, kidnapping with victims forced and locked into sinking ship; one allusion to sex but no nudity; alcohol and smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality with good being repaid with evil and some racial slurs.
BLOOD WORK begins with an ominous message in blood, inviting retired FBI Director Terrell McCaleb, played by Clint Eastwood, to catch the serial killer that just left another victim dead. Having just undergone heart transplant surgery, the angry McCaleb is forbidden by his doctor, Anjelica Huston, to go back to work, but the lovely Graciela Rivers informs him that he now owns the heart of her sister, Gloria – a fresh murder victim of the “taunter.” McCaleb finds himself falling for Graciella and trying to weigh out his ethical responsibilities. But, will more victims have to die before he can solve his taunter’s questions? Is there a future for him and Graciella? Might there be a traitor among his cronies? What does his rare blood type have to do with these murders? These pressing questions are answered as an unsettling mystery unfolds.
BLOOD WORK has all the fun Clint Eastwood-isms fans love and expect, especially the clever one-liners with “the voice.” There is excessive language and violence, however, and some of the production values are sub-par, but the worldview is moral in that McCaleb wants to do the right thing and puts others first.