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USA 1997
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
121 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Absolute Power

“Does the world really need another Clint Eastwood movie?” is clearly not a question that the veteran star-director-producer asked himself before making this near-laughably strained film about Luther Whitney (Eastwood), a professional cat burglar who witnesses a murder while carrying out a lucrative job.

Even if Eastwood isn’t a particularly adventurous director and unquestionably limited as an actor, with a script by William Goldman and a top drawer cast you’d be forgiven (sorry!) for expecting more than what we get here. But from the opening scene in an art museum in which Luther is approached by a good-looking young woman the movie is a by-numbers affair that doesn’t stack up (the woman/art connection is never developed).

The only aspect that is of some interest, indicating as it does a complete disillusionment with the Oval Office, is that the real perp is the President of the United States (Gene Hackman), the film’s title referring to the long-standing truism about power and corruption. (Bill Clinton was POTUS at the time of the film’s release and the Monica Lewinsky scandal had broken the year prior).

In every other respect the film is slackly pedestrian. Thus one may well wonder even given that the POTUS is partial to kinky sex would he really take two Secret Service agents (Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert) with him to an assignation, let alone sequester his Chief of Staff (Judy Davis) n the next room. This is not to mention that Luther who is no more that 12 months away from a Zimmer frame, carries out the robbery with extraordinary ease and as we are informed later on in the film, in a double whammy, puts everything back undetected.

None of this is, fyi, a spoiler as it forms the scene-setting basis for the events which follow, many of which involve the detective (Ed Harris) leading the murder investigation and Luther’s estranged daughter (Laura Linney) flirting with each other.

With the exception of the always-sterling Linney and Davis very little of this involves any acting. Hackman who worked with Eastwood to much better effect on Unforgiven (1992) in a particularly tasteless role is mainly brought in for his trademark chuckle. Eastwood barely fulfills his role as a master of disguise.

Absolute Power at its best is professionally-made production line stuff, at worst a case of mis-placed vanity.  




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