Year Released: 2002
Directed by: Clint Eastwood"
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Wanda De Jesus, Anjelica Huston
(R, 110 Min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
“The key to catching a killer is only a heartbeat away.”
Ok, Dirty Harry can’t run anymore. He has a bad ticker and lives in forced retirement on a houseboat, the only excitement in his life exchanging pleasantries and an occasional beer with his houseboat neighbor, Buddy (Jeff Daniels).
Well actually, Eastwood is not Dirty Harry anymore. He’s Terry McCaleb, a super successful FBI profiler until he suffered a heart attack in pursuit of the serial “Code Killer,” who had seemed to single McCaleb out in a very personal cat and mouse game. Now still in recovery after a recent heart transplant, he is fragile and well aware of his mortality, as is the audience as we watch him down handfuls of pills as he tentatively touches the new heart.
This lesser known Eastwood film is solid suspense, even if Eastwood is physically damaged goods who can no longer run, let along drive a car. He is still the badass, but tempered by the human vulnerability he has displayed in his latter films.
So we completely understand when he rebuffs the young woman, Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesus), who pleads with him to find the man who killed her sister in a robbery gone bad. But when she tells McCaleb that it is her sister’s heart that has saved him – he had been waiting almost two years for a transplant due to his rare blood type – he finally agrees to help. Even if that means risking the viability of his transplant, as his physician Dr. Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston) warns him.
And he’s not getting much help from the conventional cops handling the investigation, who seem threatened by his high profile presence. Playing Detective Arrango, the usually likeable Paul Rodriguez tinges his insults with vulgar bile rather than humor, rejecting the box of doughnuts McCaleb brings as a peace offering:
“Hey, McCaleb! We don’t need your doughnuts… or your shit! We’ve got enough of our own.”
Perhaps the only hint of Rodriguez’s legendary wit occurs over McCaleb’s claim to his heritage, given his donor’s Mexican ethnicity:
Terry McCaleb: Hey, Arrango. Next time you step foot on my boat, this Mexican will kick your ass.
Detective Arrango: Just because you got a Mexican’s heart doesn’t mean you’re one of us.
As in all of Michael Connelly’s work, the novelist behind the film, the case involves solid police work. McCaleb spends hours scanning robbery surveillance footage, disparaged as a dead end by the detectives who have basically given up on finding the killer. There are no good shots of his face. But the experienced FBI profiler, McCaleb, thinks that in itself is a clue. This was not amateur robber. He was meticulous not to get his face on camera.
And McCaleb ferrets out a few other anomalies ignored by the detectives and really starts to home in on the case, linking his own blood type, an earring, a crucifex, and some sunglasses to the murders. When several people he has interviewed wind up dead, things get more than lively, and McCaleb begins to think he is after an old foe.
Agatha Christie would approve of Blood Work’s twists and turns. They are intellectually honest and well planned, unlike the flimsy plot distractions we too often encounter today. And the shrewd observer who uses his little gray cells might even guess the killer before he or she is revealed. But it won’t be easy or predictable, and that is half the fun.
*I weighed reviewing the more dramatic Eastwood oldie, Play Misty for Me, but unlike the actor, who has aged well, his 1971 directorial debut did not. Yes, its star, a 30-year-old Eastwood is simply gorgeous, something the current generation might not even remember, but the film itself is poorly paced, meandering and rather self-indulgent. It still packs a wallop, but it’s a little over the top. Feel free to see this precursor to Fatal Attraction, but Different Drummer finds more sustained pleasure in today’s offering.
3 1/2 Drums
Graciella is so appreciative of McCaleb’s help finding her sister’s murderer that she comes over to his houseboat to cook him a homemade Mexican dinner. It is quite delicious. That and the beautiful cook behind it begin to thaw McCaleb’s heart, no pun intended.
Different Drummer has found a heart healthy Mexican recipe Graciella might cook for him in the future, given McCaleb’s condition. And it even involves boats.
Burrito Zucchini Boats
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 c. black beans
1/2 c. chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. corn
1 c. shredded cheddar
1 c. shredded Monterey jack
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Score zucchini (like you’re dicing an avocado) and scoop out insides, reserving them for later. Place zucchini halves cut side-up into bottom of 9”-x-13” baking dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake until zucchini turns bright green and is just beginning to soften, 10 minutes.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and reserved zucchini and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add ground beef, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until beef is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Drain fat.
3. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and paprika, then season with salt and pepper. Stir in black beans, cherry tomatoes, and corn.
4. Spoon beef mixture into zucchini then top with cheeses. Bake until zucchini is just tender and cheeses are melted, about 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro before serving.