Plot: What’s it about?
We have to face the very real possibility that actors like Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman (and others) won’t be with us in 10-15 years. Not only are the aforementioned three the stars of one of Eastwood’s most popular movies, Unforgiven, but each is getting on in years. I’m not a psychic, but I might not be here then either (and I’m not even 30). What Eastwood has done with his career is uncompromised. He has created genre after genre and only seems to get better with age. Yes, I’m a Clint Eastwood fan (though I’ve yet to see Bridges of Madison County). As some of his most hailed works have dealt with a renegade cop in Dirty Harry or an aging outlaw in Unforgiven, Eastwood consistently reminds us that he, like us, ages. He’s not one of these guys who try to stay young forever, but rather he grows old gracefully both on and off screen. Never before is this seen as much as in his latest effort, Blood Work; where his character must fight the ravages of time by getting a heart transplant just to stay alive.
This time around Eastwood plays an FBI agent (much unlike his role in In the Line of Fire) Terry McCaleb who is in the midst of tracking down his latest "case". Terry has been around, knows how the game is played and, as such, knows what it takes to get his man. The trouble is that his heart isn’t what it used to be and he’s forced into an "early" retirement due to the fact that he now needs something to keep his blood flowing through his now much older body. Terry gets his heart transplant, and it seems to take, but he’s now retired to a life of sitting on a dock talking to his somewhat odd neighbor (Jeff Daniels). At the advice of his doctor (Anjelica Huston), Terry starts to investigate the case he left before nature took its course. You see, Terry has been recruited (guilt-tripped if you will) into going back on the case, though now it’s not "official", to search for the serial killer that he was after. Terry’s blood is very rare, as was his donor’s whose heart he got that very same day. Terry puts the pieces of the puzzle together very easily and feels that it’s the right thing to do to track down this psycho. In the irony department, though, if not for this psycho (or if Terry had caught them before he retired), odds are that he wouldn’t be alive to do this at all. Funny the way life works, eh?
This is nearly the 25th film that Eastwood has directed (and most of them have starred…him) and screenwriter Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale, Payback) have done a great job at converting the novel to the silver screen (now the TV screen). Eastwood isn’t afraid to show us that he’s getting old and his movies are starting to reflect that, dating back to the works of Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, A Perfect World and, most recently, Space Cowboys. While the film didn’t do that well at the box office, it did manage to garner some critical acclaim (and let’s face it folks, that’s what its all about, isn’t it)? Though I feel that the talents of Jeff Daniels and, in particular, Anjelica Huston, were somewhat wasted here (especially Daniels as Eastwood’s sidekick) it’s a good film that won’t leave you wanting in the end. Unlike so many other movies of it’s genre, this doesn’t follow the same standard plot. Yes, you might even be surprised by the ending and that’s somewhat of a good thing.
Video: How does it look?
As Eastwood directs Eastwood, most of his movies are presented in the scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and this is certainly no exception. I prefer the wider range on the screen even with those "black bars" (yes, they’re even present on the widescreen TV which I’m still paying for). Still, Blood Work is a brand new movie and, obviously, brand new to DVD and as such, the result is a very fine-looking transfer. Warner, known for producing great-looking DVD’s, has done another fine job here and it shows…literally. There is a slight bit of edge enhancement present in some of the outdoor scenes, but not much. Though the cover may fool you into thinking this is a very dark movie, it’s not. Black levels do exist though, and they’re perfect. Nothing else to complain or observe here, you get a fine transfer, probably what we were all expecting anyway.
Audio: How does it sound?
I have to admit that I wasn’t really expecting much in the audio department. Sure, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very solid and at at times, very active; but for a modern-day suspense/thriller, this has a very active mix. Now, it isn’t Armageddon or anything, but it’s the little discrete effects that make it work so well. Things like cameras going off in the opening scene and certain background noises that we hear throughout. The surrounds make the soundtrack work as the plot makes the movie work. While this won’t grab you as the greatest soundtrack ever, it’s very solid throughout.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Eastwood’s movies have never really been much for supplements, even given his somewhat lengthy relationship with Warner Brothers. This disc features two featurettes, some cast bios and a trailer. The first supplement, "Making Blood Work" shows that the title is more than just a play on words, and while this is all stuff we’ve seen before, it does serve its purpose. The featurette runs about twenty minutes and tells how the script evolved and how Eastwood was initially involved. While it’s repetitive at times, it does work (pardon the pun). Next up is "A Conversation in Spanish with Clint Eastwood, Paul Rodriquez and Wanda DeJesus". This isn’t a lie here, folks, it really is in Espanol! Subtitles help those who are not fluent in this language, and though it is redundant, it’s a rather unique and informative way to present the information. Also included are the original teaser and theatrical trailer as well as some very brief cast bios.