'Blood Work': Another Sample From Clint's Lab

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 9, 2002

IF YOU can't figure out who done it in the first half-hour of "Blood Work," a meat-and-potatoes thriller directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, you need to get out more. The murderer might as well walk around miming stabbing motions with his hand as he makes that eee-EEE, eee-EEE sound from "Psycho." You've got to figure that any serial killer who leaves crime scene notes screaming "catch me" in blood, next to his own encrypted signature – a code that's eventually deciphered by a 10-year-old-boy – is not trying all that hard to stay out of jail.

Is it really obvious? Let me put it this way: Even Eastwood's character, retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb, who's called back into service two months after getting a life-saving heart transplant (courtesy of Dr. Anjelica Huston), figures it out with about 20 minutes to spare. Which leaves him, his barely broken-in ticker and his steel-trap mind plenty of time to engage in a tense game of cat-and-mouse with the killer on a rusty, half-sunken boat in the middle of some harbor (assuming, that is, cats and mice had machine guns and FBI-issue firepower, à la "The Itchy and Scratchy Show").

But I digress.

Despite its lack of surprises, "Blood Work" is actually effective, if prosaic, entertainment, in the way that a piece of New York strip, medium well and smothered with A-1 sauce, is. You don't order it and then complain that it's not Steak Diane. And when you're dining out at Cafe Clint, what do you expect?

Well, "Dirty Harry"-style justice, for one thing. After Terry begins investigating the murder of the woman whose heart now beats in his chest – a murder that appears planned for the express purpose of keeping him in business – it isn't long before he's pulling out his shotgun to blast out the windows of a parked car, just because he has a hunch that the guy reading a newspaper behind the wheel is the perp.

Okay, so he's right, but whatever happened to reading him his rights?

And because he's Clint, even if an older, more creased and crustier version, with a scary-looking seam up his sternum, he still gets the girl. That would be Graciella Rivers (Wanda DeJesus), the sister of the dead woman whose organ donor card is now facilitating McCaleb's ability to do the horizontal hokeypokey.

That's right. The scene where Terry takes his shirt off and Graciella runs her fingernails up and down his scar tissue got equal amounts of "ews" and laughter at a press screening, which actually makes for kind of a funny sound.

Be that as it may, Eastwood's work in "Blood Work" – both behind and in front of the camera – is, well, workmanlike. The joints of the plot hold together, as does the acting (okay, the eye squinting). Look, it's always nice to see Clint, and especially nice to see him play someone whose humanity – no, whose mortality – is all too apparent.

BLOOD WORK (R, 110 minutes)Contains gunplay and execution-style slayings captured on surveillance video, implied sexuality, obscenity and some sex talk. Area theaters.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company