True Crime

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Clint Eastwood

REVIEWED: 03-29-99

Clint Eastwood has based True Crime, the 21st film he has directed, on the novel by Andrew Klavan. He also stars in the film, playing — in the tradition of his canon — an amoral loose cannon. Here, Eastwood is reporter Steve Everett, a veteran not only of the newsroom but of alcoholism and womanizing. In the course of the film, Everett loses his wife and small daughter because of his soulless serial affairs. He camouflages his emotions with self-deprecating, surly, tough-guy humor and has lots of cynical lines like “Everyone lies, pal. I’m just here to write it down” and “I don’t give a rat’s ass for the truth — all I’ve got is a nose” which Eastwood grinds out in his trademark sotto voce snarl. And, to gild the all-too-human character with just a bit of redemption in order to avoid a complete lack of audience sympathy, Everett follows his nose into an attempt to prevent an innocent man from being executed.

Unfortunately, this time out, Eastwood has pursued his interest in ambivalent male protagonists into a dead end. Everett never attains even anti-heroic stature; he’s weak and small, his sourness infects those around him, his pride in his non-belief is not a position of strength but of self-involvement and failure. He may have the number on the speciousness and sensationalism of much of today’s media, but his late-in-the-day rally to find the life-or-death truth of a story is far from salutary; it’s just another instance of orneriness. And because the central character doesn’t gel satisfactorily, neither can the film’s attempt at hybridizing Everett’s newsroom and bedroom shenanigans with issue-driven questions about capital punishment. True Crime lacks focus, for which it tries to compensate in its final third by a standard-issue race against the midnight execution clock.

The problem of the film is perfectly exemplified at the end by Everett’s car chase sequence. As the wrongly accused man (Isaiah Washington) is wheeled into the chamber for the lethal injection, the audience is expected to root for the guy who’s trying to get to the prison with last-minute evidence. It seems the crowning miscalculation that Everett, completely loaded after falling off the wagon that night and driving at 80 mph through city traffic, probably comes close to killing dozens of innocent people in order to prove one point he’s decided he cares about. This doesn’t come off as moral and dramatic complexity for the audience; it comes off as indulgent lunacy.

The film also shows less technical proficiency than we have seen before from the maker of Tightrope, A Perfect World, and the memorable, Oscar-winning Unforgiven. Perhaps aware that his character and storyline here are maddeningly stuck, Eastwood allows many scenes to play too long, almost listlessly searching for some kind of sensible, genuinely moving resolution that never comes.

--Hadley Hury

Full Length Reviews
True Crime

Capsule Reviews
True Crime

Other Films by Clint Eastwood
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
The Bridges of Madison County

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