Blood Work

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Blood Work

"You're only as good as your last picture," the saying goes. But that doesn't apply to rare cases like Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood, two prolific actor-directors who coast from one project to the next on the assurance of a long-term studio contract. Since redefining his career with 1992's masterpiece Unforgiven, Eastwood has settled into a sort of dignified complacency, turning out minor triumphs (A Perfect World, The Bridges Of Madison County, Space Cowboys) and disappointments (Absolute Power, True Crime) with equal aplomb. In some respect, it's actually a small achievement that Eastwood's down-the-middle police procedural Blood Work ranks as his least ambitious work in a decade, anonymous save for his iconic screen presence and a tasteful selection of jazz on the soundtrack. Serviceable at best, slightly less than serviceable at worst, the film adapts Michael Connelly's crime novel without even the faintest suggestion of subtext, following leads like a trail of bread crumbs to the closing titles. The heart is nothing more than a heart to Eastwood, who stars as a retired FBI operative recovering from a recent transplant, the lucky beneficiary of a donor with his rare blood type. After his doctor (Anjelica Huston) gives him strict orders to relax and recover on his boat in a Los Angeles harbor, Eastwood receives an unusual request from his donor's sister (Wanda De Jesus), who beckons him to solve the murder that ironically saved his life. Feeling duty-bound to the donor's memory, he noses around the official investigation with a layabout neighbor (Jeff Daniels) serving as his chauffeur and mismatched partner. As Eastwood teases out a connection between two unrelated murders—thanks in part to an Internet search with the keywords "robber, ski mask, shooting"—an old nemesis resurfaces in the form of a serial killer who leaves his signature mark in code. Eastwood and gifted screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who streamlined another crime thriller to memorable effect in L.A. Confidential, scatter a few red herrings as a cheap diversion, but the case proves far easier to solve than the veteran detective makes it out to be. Whodunits like Blood Work are only as good as their mechanics, so when the guessing ends for good within an hour, Eastwood can provide little else to sustain the film for its duration, outside of his gruff buddy chemistry with Daniels and an obligatory love interest in De Jesus. A consummate professional, Eastwood carries off his direction and performance with characteristic assurance and class, which here looks too much like going through the motions.