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Powertown, Batteries Not Included

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 14, 1997

  Movie Critic

Scene from this movie

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood;
Gene Hackman;
Ed Harris;
E.G. Marshall;
Laura Linney;
Melora Hardin;
Scott Glenn;
Dennis Haysbert;
Judy Davis
Running Time:
2 hours
Under 17 restricted

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"Absolute Power," Clint Eastwood's doddering political thriller, promises to speed up the pacemakers of grumpy old Republicans with its ruthless indictment of the unzipped presidency. While few citizens would endorse whoremongering in a chief executive, Eastwood himself appears somewhat over-excited by the more lurid aspects of this tawdry scenario.

Whether working behind the camera or in front of it, Eastwood finds himself in the unsavory position of playing voyeur. Though he portrays a decorated Korean War veteran who appreciates fine art and loves his estranged daughter (Laura Linney), his character is after all a professional burglar.

Luther, a thief known for his meticulous research and marvelous disguises, is planning to retire after burglarizing the home of Walter Sullivan (E.G. Marshall), a billionaire with close ties to the White House. In the midst of the heist, Luther witnesses a brutal tryst between Sullivan's trophy bride (Melora Hardin) and, gulp, the president of the United States (Gene Hackman).

Rough sex leads to even rougher sex, but our hero doesn't intervene. He just keeps staring at the ugly scene, which leads to the woman's murder and a coverup masterminded by the president's chief of staff (Judy Davis) and the Secret Service. When Luther botches his getaway, they try to set him up for the murder, but Luther is determined to outwit the evil pols.

Eastwood, now 66, has never looked less like an action hero. Sometimes he seems to be moving in slow motion. Still, he's a proverbial spring chicken compared with most of the cast, which proves the creakiest since Captain Kirk and crew went into dry dock. Ed Harris, as a Northern Virginia police detective, comes closest to eye candy, and while he's a nice-looking sort, he's not Brad Pitt.

Eastwood the director sets a pace so poky that grannies with walkers seem fleet in comparison. Of course, this makes the many plot holes and implausibilities all the more evident and leaves time for the contemplation of William Goldman's rather awful screenplay.

Goldman's raw material was local lawyer-turned-author David Baldacci's novel, a Washington potboiler several notches below your average Tom Clancy. But local audiences will not recognize this Washington-without-potholes or find this a savvy portrait of life in Foggy Bottom. Frankly, "Mars Attacks" had a better handle on the White House.

Presidents aren't the only ones corrupted by "Absolute Power"; producer-director-stars often qualify, too.

Absolute Power is rated R for violence, profanity and sexual foreplay.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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