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Absolute Power may not be an overly special film but it was the first
movie I saw in the cinema after leaving high school. I was certainly
not the target audience but it had my attention from the first scene
and maintained the suspense for the during of the running time, even if
it doesn't build to much.
Clint Eastwood plays Luther Whitney, an expert thief who targets billionaire industrialist Walter Sullivan (grouchy old EG Marshall, in his last theatrical movie) while he is off on vacation. While in the midst of cleaning out the vault the President of the United States (Gene Hackman) enters the room with Sullivan's wife. Whitney hides in the vault, which has a two-way mirror, and witnesses the President get a little too rough with the woman, which ends in her fighting him off and being murdered by the secret service. The Chief of Staff concocts a plan to cover up the murder not knowing that Whitney is watching the whole thing. As the group leave he escapes, taking a crucial piece of evidence with him.
Initially unsure what to do, Whitney decides to taunt the President, though it's not clear what his complete plan is or even if he's just free-forming. If one should fault Absolute Power for any reason it's that it establishes a lot of plot and potential but never really does anything with it and ends with an anti-climactic cop-out.
Where it succeeds is with the small cast of characters who really make the dialogue and relationships work. Ed Harris as the confused but dedicated cop investigating the case, Laura Linney as Whitney's resentful daughter, and the austere Scott Glenn as the self-doubting agent make every scene effortless even when there's not much happening.
Adapted from (and streamlined and improved in the process) the bloated novel by David Baldacci (I call them 'Airport novels' those 600-page bricks with generic covers featuring nothing but the title and author in giant gold letters in a tacky font) the screenplay makes many changes but they are all for the better. Eastwood's direction is slow and steady or 'mature'. The pace and framing is the antidote for anyone bored to tears with the nauseating aesthetic of today's comic-book movies and CGI nightmares.
A curious thing about the beginning of the movie is that Clint Eastwood only has 2 lines of dialogue for the entire 35 minutes. I don't understand why he didn't cut them out and remain silent, which would give the film a peculiar edge.
What starts out with immense potential gradually evaporates into
preposterousness in ABSOLUTE POWER. That doesn't make it an entirely
bad picture, but it certainly puts a damper on what could have been.
Clint Eastwood is an aging thief (he's been an aging something or other
for his last 20 movies) who secretly witnesses President Gene Hackman
get rough with his mistress. The encounter ends with her being shot by
the Secret Service as she tries to defend herself, and the incident is
promptly disguised to look like run-of-the-mill foul play. He may be on
the outside of the law looking in, but Clint ain't about to let the
powers that be get away with this one.
The opening 20 minutes of ABSOLUTE POWER are quite suspenseful, bordering on mesmerizing. There we are, trapped in a walk-in, two-way mirrored vault along with our pilfering hero, helpless to stop the horror unfolding just meters away. Eastwood may start out as the bad guy, but his status is quickly upgraded as he flees the scene holding what may be the only piece of evidence that can prove his astonishing observation. From then on we find ourselves rooting him on, even if he is in reality nothing more than the lesser of two evils.
What unravels ABSOLUTE POWER is its laziness and improbability. In an attempt to set up one stirring scene after another, the characters begin doing and saying things one would expect of a low-rate Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. A one-dimensionally evil Secret Service man surreptitiously hunkers down in a tall building trying to snipe Eastwood ala Lee Harvey Oswald. A police detective has no problem with Eastwood sneaking around his home at all hours of the night. A three-minute argument by Eastwood's thief is enough to convince the mistress's widower of the involvement of the most powerful man on earth. And to call the ending outlandish and unsatisfying would be a pair of understatements.
As well, though it's usually the other way around, ABSOLUTE POWER would have benefited from a longer running time. One comes away with the sense that Eastwood, who also directed, tried to cram too much into too little. The film certainly had the material to go longer, and its compactness gives the whole endeavor a choppy feel at times.
ABSOLUTE POWER is a film you really want to like. There is considerable talent involved here, and the movie's heart seems to be in the right place. But like that one photo we all have in our album, this one didn't turn out as good as we would have hoped.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Absolute Power featured an exceptional cast. Clint Eastwood, Gene
Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Judy Davis, E. g. Marshall - few
movies boast better talent.
Absolute Power also involved a compelling scenario - Eastwood, a master thief, has staked out Marshall's house and is pulling a third story job involving a vault full of diamonds and money, when Marshall's wife and the president of the United States waltz into the bedroom intoxicated and frisky. Things get a little rough, and Hackman (the president) finally yells for help when the young woman tries to stab him, with a letter opener. The Secret Service blows the woman away and sets about cleaning up and covering up the crime. Eastwood, of course, witnesses the entire proceeding and manages to grab one important piece of evidence (the letter opener) before making good his escape. He then begins a cat and mouse game somewhere between the police, the secret service and his estranged daughter, who is unsure who to believe.
Absolute Power, despite its potential, was a disappointment. The characters were made believable by the phenomenal cast. Eastwood, Linney and Davis were outstanding at times. And the film has several tense and visually very interesting scenes which showed Eastwood's directorial talent nicely. From my perspective, the problem was somewhere between the script, the editing and the directing, but I am not sure exactly where. About 2/3rds of the way through the film, the Keystone Cops antics of the Secret Service members who are supposed to be "taking care" of the situation, are no longer believable, and neither is Eastwood' ability to be anywhere at any time without being detected. Further, when the end finally does come, it moves in pretty abruptly, as something of a less than interesting anticlimax, long after the plot has fully unraveled, and you are left wondering just how much of the script was edited out. In fact, the last half of the film seemed rushed.
Absolute Power is a plot heavy film. Less character-driven and less action oriented than most of its genre peers, the film relies on strong but underdeveloped performances, the likability of its antihero (Eastwood) and what could have been a very engaging string of scenarios culminating in a powerful conclusion. Plot heavy films can be good films if they stick to their heavy story-lines. However, and inexplicably, Absolute Power derails about half way through and never really gets back on track. Instead, none of these potentialities are explored fully and we are left with only petty revenge, a little misapplied justice, and the rebuilding of a relationship between the story's most likable characters (Linney and Eastwood). Yawn. An entertaining little show with a few really good moments, but nothing special.
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
A very fun plot. Gene Hackman could vilify Ghandi given the right lines. Clint Eastwood as a high-stakes jewel thief?? I'm in heaven. Soft, subtle score; typical of modern Eastwood films. Intense finale that has you rooting for the bad guys, or is it the good guys?? You decide. E. G. Marshall's version of a scorned billionaire is a wonderful turn.
I have not read Baldacci's novel this is based upon. But I have to think, Clint Eastwood was not who he had in mind for the elusive cat burglar Luther Whitney. That casting was probably a little too self-serving. Also, I did enjoy the plot. But maybe a touch of more believability would have been nice. The murder scene at the beginning, while necessary for the remainder, may be a touch too implausible for my taste.
Solid entertainment. This rating denotes that. Sure, won't win any Oscars, but that's not why you really want to see a film like this. We all root for these high stakes take-the-money-and-run type finales and here we are satiated in the chicanery, the likes of which could only emanate from D.C. Seven out of ten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Eastwood, nobody's fool, seems to alternate between quiet, almost arty
films, and commercial thrillers or comedies. This is probably an
above-average example of one of his thrillers.
The plot -- in brief -- Eastwood is a highly skilled thief and in the process of burglarizing a rich old man's house he witnesses the murder of the owner's wife by the President of the United States (Gene Hackman) and two of his Secret Service agents. Clint manages to get away, carrying some damaging evidence with him. The police narrow down the list of suspects until only Clint is left plausible. Thereafter he is hunted by the police (Ed Harris), a hit man hired by the tycoon (E. G. Marshall), and the Secret Service (Judy Davis and Scott Glen). There is a subplot involving Clint's estranged daughter (Laura Linney) who gets together with Ed Harris in the film's course. In the end, through Clint's deft weaseling about, justice is done.
I had a bit of a problem with the film's moral calculus. E. G. Marshall, one of the world's richest men, is a good guy. We are told this repeatedly and he's shown a good deal of respect by people who should know. But then why did he "give the presidency" to a murdering, philandering fool like Hackman? And SHOULD he have? He loses our sympathy when he hires a hit man to kill Eastwood. Evidently, somehow, he manages to stab the president to death. The script seems to want us to applaud him for dealing out power and justice as he sees fit, and to respect him even after he kills Hackman and lies about it on TV, using the pat phrase, "He was like a son to me." "Good man," my foot.
It's rather a gutsy movie. In most of them, when a "high government official" is involved in some really nefarious business like murder, it's usually someone of lesser status than the President himself. (Cf., "No Way Out," in which, in a similar role, Hackman is Secretary of Defense or something.) In all of its aspects -- its photography, location shooting, musical score, and performances -- it's professionally competent. If it doesn't probe anyone's psych, it doesn't matter because it's easy to be swept up in the events and the clarity of the characterization. It even rises above that level in its dialog. The plot may be no more imaginative than is called for, but the writers have thrown in some sparkling bon mots.
Harris and Glenn are talking in a parking lot and introduce each other. Harris remarks that Glenn is famous as a state trooper for his heroism. Glenn: "I was younger and dumber then." Harris: "Yeah, I was younger then but I think I'm dumber now." When E. G. Marshall is negotiating with the hit man, he offers him three million dollars to kill Eastwood, who he believes murdered his wife. Hit man: "You're a good salesman." Marshall: "Selling sin is easy." And when Harris first finishes interrogating Clint, Harris says, "I'll see you tomorrow." Clint smiles gaily and replies: "Tomorrow is promised to no one." Now -- I'm not claiming that these are Shakespearean flights of poetry, but they're at least as good as a lot of well-known lines from B movies like "Detour." ("What is money? Just a piece of paper crawling with germs.") At least after hearing them you don't want to take a can of scouring powder to your auditory canals and clean out the accumulated garbage. Whoever is responsible for lines like that HAD to think beyond the merely utilitarian.
Nice journeyman job.
A consistent plot involving many different types of characters in the form of organised professional robber Whitney (Marvellously portrayed by Eastwood) who is involved in a huge conspiracy involving the very uncomfortable president Hackman.
Perhaps the story gets too involved at points with a lack of realism. However the film is always tense and engaging, especially the beginning which was definitely one of my all time favourite openings to a crime film. Tense, exciting and with a few twists it presents a realistic view of a robber caught up in what will surely be a huge case.
The story justifies the genre by being focused upon murders and robberies and adds sentimental value in the form of family and friendship values. Laura Linney (The Truman Show) is terrific as Eastwood's daughter and adds a great sentimental value to a heavy crime film. She is involved in a great twists towards the end which is a must watch.
The ending surprised me. Although there were great twists, the final few scenes and the way the narrative came to never felt quite justified in my opinion but then again I may have been expecting too much from a film that was consistent and engaging from the beginning. The film is always kept exciting through the tense robbery scenes, character actions and a plot about a man and his power.
Eastwood's direction is simply breathtaking. The opening sequence where he explores the neatly kept mansion for his robbery is the best moment in the entire film; I was literally on the edge of my seat. Dark, quiet and with a grace that any director would be proud of I held my breathe from start to finish. Heavy critics may argue it conforms too much to an action styled genre with many shots appearing focusing in or around the main priority but I appreciated it for what it was, which was sheer brilliance.
Eastwood is outstanding in the whole of this film. Not only his ability to pull off a stern ageing character but this direction is also worthy of huge praise.
watch it if...you enjoy the crime genre and appreciate tense dramatic sequences.
but its simply just worth watching for the beginning.
Washington DC -1990s. Luther Whitney, reputed one the very best thieves of the country but supposedly retired, is in the process of executing his greatest robbery the private vault of a powerful billionaire, Walter Sullivan. But he is disturbed by the billionaire's young wife. Christy takes advantage of her husband's absence to receive her lover the US President himself. President Richmond is a sick pervert, and the love affair turns sour. In front of hidden Whitney, the lady is murdered. Before escaping, Whitney secures the murder weapon, but he will need all his experience and skills to manipulate the secret services and the very competent police investigator Seth Frank. Not only must he protect himself but also his estranged daughter Kate. Not to worry however Luther Whitney is Clint Eastwood, after all! And since the suspense in this respect is minimal, we can just relax and enjoy watching one of our coolest supermen smoothly make his way through a nicely structured scenario. Although the action itself is ageless, one sign definitely links the movie to the 90s the blatant lack of respect for the person of the US President and the undisguised criticism of political corruption. Maybe a way to exorcise the scandals that have been plaguing the White House over the last decades
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me start by saying I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan and I think I'm
dangerously close to being in love with the beautiful Laura Linney.
Combine the two and what do you get? A film made in heaven? No - nearer
to hell in fact.
I read somewhere that Eastwood was so methodical and resolute in his film making that he managed to shoot Absolute Power 3 weeks ahead of schedule and 2-4 million under budget. Now, I don't know if he had spent that money and time on the film if it would be an improvement but it couldn't be any worse.
Right from the get-go this film is doomed. Hackman (a criminally underused Hackman) is the President having some midnight fun with the wife of his biggest supporter. He gets a little rough, she fights back too much for the liking of the secret service men who in the end shoot her dead in her own bedroom. All of this is witnessed by Eastwood hiding in a secret vault room. The chase is now on. But the thing is - nothing - not one single thing afterwards, fits. There is NO suspense, no drama, a sequence of events that would make your eyes water with incredulity and enough plot holes to drive a truck through - sideways.
I won't (can't - don't have the space nor the time) go into all of the issues with this film but here's a flavour:
1. Eastwood abseils out a window of the crime scene with a pack that must weigh a ton on his back - filled with jewels/cash and then manages to outrun 2 trained secret service agents through a forest. Now the fact that Eastwood is quite obviously an old man carrying substantial weight doesn't seem to matter. The two guys following him must be 25 years younger, are armed and even have night vision goggles !!!! Yet cannot catch him.
2. The day after the theft/murder, Ed Harris, the police investigator, walks into his office, holding Eastwood's file. He says something about how a friend of his told him there are only 6 guys IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that could pull off that theft and only 1 of those 6 lives in D.C. - Eastwood! Is this how police investigation works??!! Very convenient that he just lives right under their noses too.
3. Harris then persuades Eastwood's daughter - Linney (again criminally underused) to set up her dad and bring him in. She agrees. Why? I don't know. But the set-up goes wrong and she is shot at by 2 snipers (one SS guy and another hired killer). Then Harris takes her home and starts flirting with her. Embarrassingly. I would have thought she would be a little aggrieved that he nearly got her and her father killed a few hours previous, but no... she invites him in for water and flirts back! This stretches believability to the max here. Why would a beautiful, successful lawyer even look at a small, balding cop who almost got her killed? To make matters worse, Eastwood - at the end of the movie encourages his daughter to get together with this cop. WHAT?!!
4. One of the snipers is set up in a hotel room of some sort with a big window. After building his rifle like something from an airfix kit, (the SS man is simultaneously building his click-together gun too) he HOLDS THE RIFLE OUT OF THE WINDOW waving it about. The place is in the middle of a high traffic, public domain, SWARMING with cops as well, in daylight!
5. Eastwood turns up in disguise. My dog would come up with a better disguise. A hat and a Mac left over from Columbo. Terrible.
6. The President then sends the SS guys to find Eastwood's daughter. I thought they would bring her in for questioning or put the squeeze on her, but they simply follow her until she parks her car at the edge of a cliff prior to a run. Rather than arrest her and bring her in for questioning (or use as bait), they simply push her over the cliff and drive away? What purpose does that possibly serve?
7. After Eastwood finds out that the SS is taking over surveillance of his daughter, he drops a public phone, speeds across the city from a phone booth in the middle of who knows where, screeching his tires and blowing his horn repeatedly through traffic to the same spot where Linney has just been pushed over the cliff. How did he know she would be there? At no time, did he see his daughter's car or talk to his daughter. How did he know to find his daughter there ?
8. At the end when the billionaire husband walks in to the President with the knife in his hand , confronts the President and CUT- there is a scene cut - and later it is announced that the President stabbed himself to death. WHAT?
I could go on for another 5 pages with things that were just happening for the sake of it or Eastwood appears out of nowhere but I won't bore you any longer.
Given Eastwood's pedigree behind the camera, I am majorly surprised at this shoddy effort. He had a good cast Linney, Harris, Glenn, Hackman, Haysbert and a decent premise of a story - but the haphazard way this is thrown together is nothing short of abysmal.
3/10 - 5 points for Linney alone, 1 point taken away for Harris' terrible flirting and another point taken away for the serious amount of plot holes.
Here is a well-paced Clint film that is fit for a heart-attack! The
cast that accompanies Eastwood is flawless. As 'Luther' the old 'cat'
who has made a fine career out of stealing, is at a major moral
crossroad...from what he had witnessed on 'the job' that never should
have taken place, in front of him. This is a stunner, that keeps your
pulse pounding in places and slows down to a normal pace in other
spots, and it all works perfectly.
Eastwood's style is second to none, as he makes his way through this thrill-ride of an enthralling story. He is very thought-provoking as he works to figure his 'escape', then a moral dilemma of major proportions hits him like a ton of brick!! His whole mission, has changed at that point and he knows it. From then on, he is set on a new course of decisive action. Next to actors like Scott Glenn and Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Judy Davis Dennis Haybert, that is pretty solid for a cast, all the players pull their own weight. But then with the addition of Gene Hackman, this is a frantic paced unveiling of events.
This for sure, rounds out my top of the top great films... This is recommended as a Clint Eastwood fun, solid action, white knuckled thriller that is satisfying for most discreminating movie-mogals I would believe. (*****)
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