Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Tightrope:" Cinematic art for men, complete with kinky sex, lusty prostitutes and severed limbs

Title: Tightrope
Released: 1984
Genre: Detective story, heavy on the whores
Notable for: Clint cast daughter Alison Eastwood in supporting role
Coolest thing Clint does: Pulls a severed arm off his throat

Clint was never accused, up to this point in his career, of appealing to female audiences. But "Tightrope" may be his one film that least resembles a chick flick. Estrogen must react to this movie like vinegar in a baking-soda volcano.

For starters, the film is shot in blackness extreme even for Clint. Women like movies that look bright and sunny. Dark lighting matches a dark story. It's a tense murder mystery with a creepy killer who wears masks and stalks prostitutes.

Also, the film has lots of good-quality violence and a fair amount of gratuitous female nudity, although usually the naked parts belong to women who are dead. As a subtext to murder, "Tightrope" features a cornucopia of male sexual perversions and fantasies.

Women must have left the theaters of 1984 and spent 40 minutes bitching about how thoroughly disturbed they were by "Tightrope."

In short, it's one of Clint's best non-cowboy films ever for the testicle-wearing audience.

Clint plays a police detective in New Orleans who investigates a series of murders in the sex district.

His cop character has a backdrop of semi-normal family life that is unusual for Clint's roles. He plays a divorced dude raising two daughters. The oldest daughter is played by his real-life daughter, Alison Eastwood, then 12. Little Alison went on to be a model, actress, film director and the head of a clothing line. Best of all, she posed for Playboy.

Clint's murder investigation is hampered by his chronic inability to ignore his boners. While questioning prostitutes and strippers, he cannot resist some kinky stuff. There is even a highly unClintlike suggestion that he has tried gay sex.

Every woman is gorgeous and they all want to screw Clint as soon as they see him. Click here to see some especially laughable sexual banter. Even the good girl Clint romances between whores wants it rough.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear the killer is really targeting Clint, not random prostitutes. Before it's over, the killer attacks Clint's nice girlfriend and his daughters, and he stuffs Clint's old-lady babysitter into a washing machine.

The final scene ranks as one of the greatest in the chronicles of Clintdom.

Clint and the killer wrestle hand-to-hand in a fight to the death along some train tracks. A train bears down on them as they roll in the dirt. As the train passes, Clint rolls away from danger but the killer still has Clint's throat in a death grip.

As the camera backs up, we see the killer is no longer attached to his arm. It was severed by the train. Clint pulls the dead limb off his throat and throws it aside.

Sorry ladies, but that is some seriously manly shit.

Next up: "Pale Rider."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"City Heat:" Sometimes things look nicer with low expectations

Title: City Heat
Released: 1984
Genre: Gangster action-comedy
Notable for: Clint stars with Burt Reynolds
Coolest thing Clint does: Walks down the middle of the street like God himself in gunfight with four hoods

"City Heat" is probably the most over-exaggerated "disappointment" in Clint's career.

Hollywood drooled dollar signs when Clint was paired with Burt Reynolds for a blockbuster action-comedy. Those idiots failed to realize two stars with a combined age of 101 were overripe to really kill audiences in a genre dominated by Eddie Murphy.

Ticket sales were disappointing to Hollywood idiots, but the film still cleared about $13 million in profit. With inflation, it made $26 million in today's dollars.

As an entertainment product, we give "City Heat" a solid 7.5 on the Clint-O-Meter. It's nowhere near a 10 ("The Outlaw Josey Wales"), but it has plenty of gunfights and is enjoyable if viewed without the burden of high expectations.

Clint plays a steely police lieutenant (what a stretch) in 1933. Reynolds is his former partner turned wisecracking private eye.

The comedy mostly springs from banter between the two stars. Their interplay is characterized by Clint calling Burt "shorty" and Burt calling Clint "ape face." One recurring "gag" has Clint watch Burt get beat up or shot at without lifting a finger to help, until a bad guy accidentally spills his coffee or fires a stray bullet through his windshield. Then Clint grimaces, rises and delivers swift and harsh vengeance. See? He cares more about his coffee than Burt!

None of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but that was predictable even in 1984, considering the comic track record of Mr. Reynolds.

The action in action-comedy comes when the boys are thrown together to fight two competing mob gangs. Bullets fly, although in a comic-book sort of way instead of the menacing-danger style of Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop."

You may ask how Clint and Burt come to fight two gangs of mobsters at once. We wish we could answer clearly, but unfortunately the script avoids coherent plot development.

Conflict starts when Burt's partner in the private eye business, Richard Roundtree, is very predictably murdered after double-crossing one mobster in a scheme to screw over another.

Never mind all that. The point is, Burt and Clint have a crapload of fistfights and gunfights and never get a scratch.

The best action scene has Clint turn bullet-proof as he slowly walks down a city street and kills four gangsters. His shotgun blasts make a car explode into a fireball and make a fire hydrant spray water on the blaze. Even we can see that is intended to be a gag because Clint plays his "Fistful of Dollars" image so over-the-top.

Whorehouse humor comes into play in the final scene, when Burt dresses in a wolf's head and girl's nightgown liberated from a bordello customer with a Little Red Riding Hood fantasy. Thus disguised, he beats up some hoods who kidnapped his horny, high-society girlfriend (Madeline Kahn, who should have been in more scenes).

Art, it ain't. But to paraphrase a popular song of the era, boys just want to have fun.

Twenty-six years later, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could expect more than a little boyish fun by putting Clint in a comedy with the dude from "Smokey and the Bandit."

Next up: "Tightrope."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Sudden Impact:" So much more than an overused catch phrase

Title: Sudden Impact
Released: 1983
Genre: Dirty Harry, take four
Notable for: "Go ahead, make my day"
Coolest thing Clint does: Goads mafioso into heart attack at the mafioso's daughter's wedding

After several weeks of country singing, comedy with apes, half-baked spy stuff, and fake cowboys coping with a harsh modern world, we were nearly distraught from withdrawal from real Clint Eastwood.

Thank God for "Sudden Impact." The return of Dirty Harry is like a Colt 45 tall boy to a sweaty alcoholic.

Clint is accused of dragging out the Dirty Harry franchise too long, but that's mostly bullshit because "Sudden Impact," the fourth of five, may be the best in the series.

Harry's gun is bigger than ever and assorted scumbags receive his usual dose of death or public disgrace.

Clint spits his overused catch phrase, "Go ahead, make my day," through clenched teeth while confronting a coffee-shop robber. Just as good but less catch-phrasey is the scene where he grabs a smirking punk in an elevator and tells him, "To me you're nothing but dog shit, understand?" If you get blue-ray, the vein that pops out in Clint's temple during that dog-shit speech looks bigger than a garter snake. Just as good is when Clint goads a mafioso into a fatal heart attack. The mafioso is not even listed in the credits but he's played by Michael V. Gazzo -- Frankie Pentangeli from Godfather II.

Damn good stuff and it has nothing to do with the real plot of "Sudden Impact."

"Sudden Impact" is really about a female serial killer taking revenge for a gang rape. She tracks down each rapist, shoots him in the balls, then in the head.

Sondra Locke plays the cock-shooter and we say it is her best performance in a Clint Eastwood film. It's a role suited to her talents.

Dirty Harry is investigating her string of penis-disfiguring murders, but he comes to realize the victims deserve to die. He practically joins forces with Locke when the scumbags kill his partner (yes, again) and cripple his dog.

The climax comes when the worst scumbag rapist falls through a carousel and is impaled through the chest on the horn of a unicorn. Our guess is symbolism is intended.

At the end, Clint sets both Locke and his audience free. This is Locke's last appearance in any Eastwood film because an ugly split-up loomed in real life. Who could have seen that coming?

Testosterone, protruding temple veins, and rapists brought to crotch-searing justice. A man needs to know what he does best. Thanks, Clint.

Next up: "City Heat."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Honkytonk Man:" What happens when Clint tries a tear-jerker

Title: Honkytonk Man
Released: 1982
Genre: "Grapes of Wrath" meets "Tender Mercies"
Notable for: Clint co-stars with son Kyle
Coolest thing Clint does: Robs a poker game to collect a debt

Spoiler alert! Clint dies at the end of "Honkytonk Man."

We mention that dramatic fact because it caused semi-scholarly interest as we watched Clint cough blood from lungs ravaged by tuberculosis.

"Has Clint ever died in a movie before?" Andrew asked. We have watched his first 38 films and our limited brainpower could not remember a single one in which his character dies.

Question: Could that lack of death scenes possibly be correct? Answer: Almost.

Combing the archives of The Clint Eastwood Project, we discovered just one forgotten death scene. Clint's character was murdered by sex-crazed schoolgirls in the weird 1971 movie "The Beguiled."

"Escape From Alcatraz" was fuzzy on whether Clint lived or died but certainly did not kill him off. "High Plains Drifter" had a death scene but that was a flashback. Clint played a ghost who remembered his murder. (Sez us, that's who.)

Not until "Honkytonk Man" did Clint ever go for a tear-jerker death. Once again, he was obviously trying new things as a movie star who just turned 50.

"Honkytonk Man" starts as a comedy set in the Great Depression. Clint plays a drunken small-time country music singer who relies on petty larceny to pay the bills.

The story revolves around his opportunity to make it big with an audition at the Grand Ol' Opry. Predictably, he sings in this movie and the results are not highly pleasing to the ears. Marty Robbins must rescue the title song from Clint's vocal stylings.

Mostly, it's a story about man-and-boy buddies on the road. The boy is played by Clint's real-life son, Kyle Eastwood, who was 14. Kyle plays Clint's nephew, whose parents inexplicably send him with Clint on the road trip from dusty Oklahoma to the big audition in Nashville.

Clint's idea of providing guidance to Kyle's character should have sent the poor kid to reform school. Under Clint's influence, Kyle screws a whore, drinks whisky, steals chickens, breaks Clint out of jail, gets accidentally stoned on weed and helps rob a poker game.

On the road to Nashville, the story turns more to tragedy as we realize Clint is deathly sick with tuberculosis. Hey, at least it provides some excuse for his singing voice. By the time he reaches the Opry, everyone knows Clint will die soon, but he insists on making some records.

Then he croaks. After the funeral, one of his records plays on the radio. So he made it big after all, we guess.

Tears were not successfully jerked from our eyes, but that's good. We don't like that kind of crap.

To our surprise, we both enjoyed "Honkytonk Man" quite a bit. Clint was appealing as the rogue with a heart of gold. Well, maybe not gold but some minor semi-precious metal. Kyle Eastwood did a creditable acting job for an amateur.

Judging from the slogan on the poster, this movie is largely about Clint teaching Kyle to be a man. Being a man means following your dream no matter how high the cost. Or maybe it means getting drunk every day and finding whores. We're not sure which Clint had in mind.

Next up: "Sudden Impact."

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Firefox:" The Wrong Stuff

Title: Firefox
Released: 1982
Genre: Spy "thriller"
Notable for: Special effects
Coolest thing Clint does: Kills a KGB agent in a men's room

We have now reached the point in Clint's career where it is no longer safe to expect each movie to bring the manly joy of grunting, squinting and cold-blooded volleys of gunfire.

He's begun to "spread his wings" and "test his boundaries" and otherwise reject his own stereotype.

Sometimes we don't care to watch.

"Firefox" nearly put us to sleep, even though everything about the movie sounds like it should be good.

"Hey! Let's put Clint in a tense spy story!" some cigar-smoking producer probably said. "The audience will eat it up like Nathan's hot dogs on a Coney Island Fourth of July!"

"Killer stuff," some coke-snorting screenwriter probably said. "But let's go one better by making it a spy story full of amazing special effects. This is 1982, man. You're dead without special effects."

Good as it all sounds, the end result is mostly boring. The essence of Clint is missing, and he is not funny or quirky to compensate for the loss.

Clint plays a hotshot pilot traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam. He is so mentally fragile he occasionally melts into a quivering pile of wimp.

Despite his mental instability and complete lack of spy training, Clint is selected for dangerous and daring mission inside the Soviet Union. He must break into a top-secret Soviet research facility and steal a highly advanced jet fighter.

The plane, called Firefox, is so sophisticated it runs off a pilot's thought waves. "If the Soviets can mass-produce it, it will change the structure of the world," Clint is told. So you know that's important.

Why pick a basket case like Clint for the job? Two reasons. One, he is such a great pilot everyone he assumes he can fly a plane that works on thought waves. Two, he speaks fluent Russian. Da!

For most of the movie, Clint is undercover sneaking into and around the Soviet Union. The commies are always close to catching him, and Clint leaves a trail of dead helpers in the underground resistance. We think the script also contained some sort of message about the courage of Jews, but we were too uninterested to grasp it.

Once Clint steals the plane amid a fiery diversion, "Firefox" turns to extended scenes of aerial combat.

The movie was made about halfway between "Star Wars" and "Top Gun," and the special effects show it. The problem with wowing audiences with the best special effects of 1982 is what happens by 2010. We are no longer impressed. The console of the high-tech jet fighter looks like a video game before graphics cards were invented.

Reliance on special effects is not the only thing "Firefox" borrows from "Star Wars." In one scene, Clint struggles with the thought-controlled plane until his mind replays the words he was taught in training, "You must think in Russian." It sounded suspiciously like, "Use the force, Luke."

Suffice to say, we were glad when the movie ended with Clint flying home in his stolen Soviet fighter.

Did we learn anything from this experience? Yes. We learned even Clint Eastwood can screw up agreeing with guys who smoke cigars and snort coke.

Next up: "Honkytonk Man."