Clint Eastwood wants to tell us a few things about presidential morals, campaign financing, and the general state of Beltway politics, and he does it through the person of Luther Whitney, master thief.

ABSOLUTE POWER

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Absolute Power" was filmed by a man with a lot on his mind. Clint Eastwood wants to tell us a few things about presidential morals, campaign financing, and the general state of Beltway politics, and he does it through the person of Luther Whitney, master thief. Tonight Luther is taking us along on a heist.

Target: the forbidding mansion of kingmaker Walter Sullivan (E.G. Marshall), an old man with a trove of coins, cash, and jewelry stashed behind a two-way mirror in his bedroom. Creeping up a stairway through halls lined with important art, Luther intends to relieve the undeserving businessman of a little of his excess.

Luther, you see, is a principled man who would intrude only on the privacy of people he despises, and Sullivan, who is both rich and corrupt, clearly deserves to be robbed. As Luther scoops the treasure into his sack, he is surprised by a drunken couple lurching toward the bedroom. Behold, it is the magnate's wife in the company of the president of the United States (Gene Hackman.)

Diving behind the mirror with Luther, we watch the drunken tryst turn into brutality and murder. By the end of this grisly scene, we know the president is a morally bankrupt coward. Luther is both witness to the crime and possessor of the murder weapon that carries the president's fingerprints. So far, so good.

The rest of this strange movie is one part thriller and two parts heavy-handed editorial by producer/actor/director Eastwood, who delivers glancing blows to contemporary history. He indulges in quick-cut visual allusions to John, Ted, and Joe Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Paula Jones--a composite indictment of the documented squalor that has infected the modern presidency. Interrupted by these tangents, the narrative momentum slows while we think, and thinking is not a proper element of this particular suspense thriller.

The explosive opening scene, which should do for two-way mirrors what "Psycho" did for showers, demands action. Instead, Mr. Eastwood stalls the drive with a series of ruminations on things that interest him.

One of these is Luther's reconciliation with his daughter, Kate (Laura Linney), a budding prosecutor sorely in need of a protector. Although Linney and Eastwood handle these scenes nicely, the subplot serves mainly to undermine the suspense. The fine Ed Harris seems fittingly embarrassed to be in this movie, and Judy Davis has seized the confusion as permission to lurch into caricature as the president's chief of staff. It takes deft hands to make caricature work, and this movie is too angry to be clever.

For whatever reason, Eastwood has designed a resolution that is steaming in pulpy excess and becomes unintentionally ridiculous. Unfolding as it does in the slow-motion gait of a very senior citizen, the ending is worse than awful; it is silly, and silliness does not become the lanky legend of a man who we all know can do better.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 493
Studio : Sony Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h0m


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