A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
Based on the novel by David Baldacci, Absolute Power is about the ruthlessness of people in power. The President believes that everything he does is beyond reproach, including an affair or two. That leads to murder and everyone around him is involved. There is only one witness, a thief named Luther Whitney. They are sure he'll talk, but when? The Secret Service is determined to keep him quiet, but catching a thief isn't always easy. Written by
Kristie Murray <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A burglar may be less of a crook than a politician
Some actors, upon reaching their sixties or seventies, retire. Some enter into a sort of semi-retirement whereby they continue to accept cameo parts but not leading roles. Some, however, try and revisit the triumphs of their youth by making the same sort of films that they were making twenty or thirty years earlier. There are too many examples to list them all, but I was less than enthusiastic to note that Sylvester Stallone, at the age of sixty, has just made his sixth "Rocky" film and is currently working on his fourth "Rambo".
Clint Eastwood is a rare example of a star who managed to remain a leading man throughout his seventh and into his eighth decade, but did so without a desperate attempt to put the clock back. (Doubtless his status as a director and producer has given him a greater influence inside the industry than many of his contemporaries). In his early sixties he made "Unforgiven", one of the all-time great Westerns, in which he starred as an ageing gunfighter, and since then has made a number of other films, such as "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Million Dollar Baby", in which an older man takes centre stage. Occasionally his roles have contained elements of an old man's wishful thinking, such as his romance with Rene Russo in "In the Line of Fire", but even in that film his character's age was important to the plot.
"Absolute Power", made when Eastwood was sixty-seven, is another older man's film. His character, Luther Whitney, is a veteran burglar who has broken into the Washington mansion of an elderly millionaire named Walter Sullivan, where, from his hiding-place, he inadvertently witnesses a killing. Sullivan's young wife Christy enters the bedroom with her lover, who is none other than the President, Allen Richmond. What starts out as a consensual love-making session goes wrong when Richmond, clearly a lover of rough sex, starts slapping Christy. She takes exception to this and slaps him back. Things get out of hand, and she attempts to stab him with a letter-opener. Richmond calls for help and his Secret Service bodyguards burst into the room and open fire, killing Christy.
Some reviewers have described Christy's killing as "murder", but legally this is not correct. Had the two bodyguards ever stood trial for murder, they would have been acquitted as they were only carrying out their duty to protect the President's life, but things never get that far. Richmond is too shocked to take any action, but his Chief of Staff Gloria Russell, realising that if the truth ever came out it would destroy his career, organises a cover-up. When the President's staff realise that Luther was a witness to the killing, he is forced to go on the run.
This could have been the plot of a very mundane political thriller, but Eastwood, both as actor and director, is able to lift it above that level. Despite Luther's criminal tendencies, Eastwood is able to make him a sympathetic figure, a man with his own sense of decency and honour. He had the assistance of a very strong cast, featuring some of Hollywood's most accomplished actors. There is E.G. Marshall in his last feature film as Sullivan, Gene Hackman (always a very watchable villain) as the hypocritical Richmond, Judy Davis as Gloria and Ed Harris as the police chief who is investigating Christy's death and soon comes to realise that there is more to it than meets the eye. A particularly important role is played by the very talented Laura Linney as Luther's daughter Kate. She has become estranged from her father as she disapproves of his criminal lifestyle and now works as a criminal lawyer, prosecuting on behalf of the police. When she realises that her father is in danger, however, she comes to his assistance, and they start to rebuild their relationship.
The idea that their President might be a philanderer would have come as no surprise to most Americans in the mid-nineties, even though this film came out just before President Clinton was caught up in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Eastwood was not, however, interested in doing something along the lines of "Primary Colors" or "Wag the Dog"; there is no attempt to make Richmond a disguised portrait of Clinton, and we do not even learn if he is a Democrat or Republican. "Absolute Power" is intended as a thriller, not a satirical comedy. Nevertheless, it does tap into the feeling that many Americans have had, ever since the Watergate affair, that their Presidents cannot always be trusted to tell the truth. It is significant that the hero of this film is a burglar by trade; the implication is that such a man may be less of a crook than a politician. 7/10
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