A political thriller but also a strong father-daughter story
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At the start of "Absolute Power" Luther Whitne (Clint Eastwood), cat burglar par excellence, finds himself in a very strange situation. While robbing a rich man's safe in a large bedroom closet, he is interrupted by the appearance of a man and woman who head straight for the bed. While hiding in the closet, where he sees what is going on through a two-way mirror, he watches while the sex play gets rough: the man hits her, she stabs him with a letter opener, and then two men come into the room and shoot her. Luther gets out of there, but while his presence was undetected it does not go undiscovered. The problem is that the man he was watching happens to be the President of the United States (Gene Hackman).Now, I have to stop at this point and tell you that one of my cinematic pet peeves is the idea that the United States Secret Service will let the president do anything, no matter how stupid or reckless, without batting an eye. Indeed, in "Absolute Power" there are two such agents, who help to cover up the murder and then try to track down Luther and kill him. However, the actors playing those two agents happen to be Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert, which is an important fact because a lot of the faults in this film area absolved by the casting, the credit for which goes to the film's director: Clint Eastwood. The hook for this thriller is the idea that the president, his Chief of Staff (Judy Davis), and the Secret Service are out to get Luther, whose stated intention is to get out of town and get lost as quick as possible. But the key to this film ends up being a rather odd romantic triangle that exists between Luther, his estranged daughter, Kate (Laura Linney), and the D.C. homicide cop, Seth Frank (Ed Harris), who is assigned to the murder. Frank interviews Luther, not because he thinks the old con is a murderer, but because he is one of the few that could have pulled off the heist. He then moves on to Kate, hoping to get her to persuade her father to turn himself in before the wrath of the rich man (E.G. Marshall) whose wife is dead comes crashing down on him. Frank clearly likes Kate and is rather impressed by Luther, which is good because I like smart cops. For his part, Luther clearly has some admiration for the detective and also likes his taste in women. My favorite scene in this movie is when Frank takes Kate to her father's house, where she has never been, and (knowing where Luther hides the key), takes her inside. In one room she finds a gallery of photographs, of all of the key moments in her life after her father left. "She was at none of these," she insists to Frank, although clearly that was never the case and we can see in an instant that she is rethinking her entire relationship with her father. As much as it is fun to watch Luther outsmart the cops, the Secret Service, and the hitman sent by old man Sullivan, the heart of this film is between Luther and Kate. Even when she sets him up, believing it to be the only way of helping keep her father alive, he surprises her by showing up. His reasoning? He did not want her to believe he was a murderer. Besides, his daughter wanted to see him.I understand the script by William Goldman is quite different from David Balducci's novel, but that simply has to do with Eastwood playing Luther (if you read the novel you will understand why this would matter in terms of the significant changes). Eastwood's direction is competent as always, and, as I mentioned above, he gets the credit for being able to bring together such a solid cast for one of his projects (who would turn down a Clint Eastwood movie?). Final Note: the White House Tour Guide is played by the director's daughter, Kimber Eastwood."
THE POWER OF THE DIRECTOR
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 02/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With MYSTIC RIVER being the most recent example, director Clint Eastwood shows why his movies are so powerful: the casting and the expert, effective direction. Eastwood the director is much better than Eastwood the actor, and there are times I wish he'd cast others in the roles he takes. But that aside, this political thriller soars because of the wonderful actors and the way Clint works with them to bring out the best, even in smaller, seemingly insignificant scenes. Let's look at some of these performances:
GENE HACKMAN - an outstanding actor who always gives a hundred percent doesn't get a lot of screen time in this one, but of course his scenes are pivotal and his ability to create such a devious and self-centered liar are brilliant.
LAURA LINNEY - one of our most consistently good actresses, Laura takes the cliche role of abandoned daughter, but fills it with the hurt that comes from that; the love that still wants to get out, and her devotion to the man she feels abandoned her. Her scene with Ed Harris in which she goes to her father's apartment and sees all the pictures is wonderful.
ED HARRIS - he plays a smart cop and an attractive, lonely one at that. His falling for Linney is understandable, and Harris controls his performance brilliantly.
SCOTT GLENN & DENNIS HAYSBERT as the secret service men are very different and the contrast works well. Glenn is remorseful over his actions; Haysbert is obviously a man who likes to kill and feel power. Their supporting contribution is essential to the movie.
E.G. MARSHALL - this late great actor has never been better. An 80 year old billionaire with a young wife who he really loves faces her tragic death and seeks revenge. And yet, he had a room built where he could watch this young wife screw around with younger and more virile men just to prove he loved her. Marshall's scene in the limo with Clint is also very moving.
JUDY DAVIS - this talented actress at times reminded me of Cruella Deville with her flashy arm movements and histrionics, but as her character develops, one can see the motivation behind these gestures, and the deep passion she feels for Hackman.A very well done and enthralling movie."