Friday, March 4, 2011

"Absolute Power" and praise for prolonging the age of vintage Clint

Title: Absolute Power
Released: 1997
Genre: Murder thriller
Notable for: Clint takes down an evil POTUS
Coolest thing Clint does: Injects poison into a dude's carotid artery with full justification

We settled in to "Absolute Power" with an extravagant supply of take-out pulled pork and a sad realization that the era of vintage Clint was dying fast.

By 1997, Clint was pushing 70 and had no business making action thrillers anymore. But he still had a few tricks left.

"Absolute Power" jumps off to an unusually gripping start. Shortly after the opening credits, Clint breaks into a mansion and commences to steal jewelry and cash from a bedroom vault. In the middle of his heist, a drunken man and woman enter the bedroom. Hiding, Clint sees them start some rough sex that disintegrates into a struggle and fight.

When the woman gets the upper hand, the drunk guy cowers and yells for help. Right then — Bam! Bam! — two guys burst through the door and shoot the woman dead. We discover the two shooters are Secret Service agents and the drunken, cowering, jerk is the president of the United States.

We were sold on "Absolute Power" right there.

The story plays out as Clint is pursued by police, two rogue Secret Service agents, and a hit man. He is a charming master thief who jokes about attending AARP meetings and needing a pacemaker.

Clint's first instinct is to flee the country to evade the power of a morally corrupt president, played by Gene Hackman. Clint changes his mind at the airport when he sees the president on TV telling bald-faced lies.

"You heartless whore," Clint scowls. "I am not about to run from you."

Vintage Clint. He is transformed from criminal genius to instrument of justice.

Along the path to justice, a side story unfolds about Clint repairing his relationship with an estranged daughter. She is drawn into the action when the Secret Service guys try but fail to kill her. To protect and avenge the daughter, Clint injects a shot of poison into the neck of a Secret Service killer.

"Mercy," the Secret Service guy pleads. "I'm fresh out," Clint grimaces. Then he push home the syringe.

Vintage Clint, again.

Like more and more of his later movies, Clint is surrounded by a strong cast. Hackman was a recent Oscar winner with Clint in "Unforgiven." Ed Harris (fresh off an Oscar nomination for Apollo 13) is the main cop. Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard from "The Right Stuff") is one bad Secret Service agent and Dennis Haysbert (soon to become the black president on "24") is the other. E.G. Marshall plays the widowed husband in his final theatrical movie role.

The chief disappointment with "Absolute Power" is an ending far worse than the beginning. A lot of crap goes down at the end, as Clint tells old E.G. Marshall, but most of it is stupid, poorly explained, and it makes no logical sense. But by then we liked the movie enough to let it slide.

Vintage Clint, by this stage of The Clint Eastwood Project, is a treat to be savored.

Next up: "True Crime."

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