Reviews

Absolute Power

3

Clint's screen presence is undiminished. But if Absolute Power has a problem, it's that even the world's most famously steely stare isn't quite enough to convince you that this man can go on playing the indestructible action hero forever. Sure, the film plays around with Clint's pensioner status ("Go down a rope in the middle of the night?" he smiles at accusations of catburglary), but it's a central credibility flaw that the film never fully addresses.

Clint's character, Luther Whitney, is a world-class purloiner who just can't bring himself to give up the thrills of a hazardous livelihood. While other old folks are retiring to pine-scented rest homes in Florida, Luther's a modern-day Sir Charles Lytton. Like the original Pink Panther's gentleman thief, he acts the innocent ex-con by day and breaks into posh houses at night, half-inching cash and sparkly trinkets. As Absolute Power starts, he's setting out on one last job - in a near-impregnable Washington mansion.

All well and good thus far, if a little ploddy. But, after the initial shock twist (US President implicated in murder), William Goldman's script, heavily reworked from the novel by David Baldacci, develops so many improbable and silly plot strands that you give up treating Absolute Power as a serious suspense thriller and let it slosh right over you. Try this, finstance... After Eastwood has witnessed the secret servicemen's murder of millionaire's wife and presidential shag-muffin Christy Sullivan, the sexagenarian housebreaker flees the scene of the crime by abseiling out of a third-storey window. As if. Then, even more implausibly, he escapes on foot through a dark wood (clutching the one piece of evidence that will bring down the Pres), while casually evading two highly trained agents, both half his age and both wearing night-vision goggles. And his superhuman abilities don't end there: throughout the film he regularly breaks into his estranged daughter's apartment - she's now a top prosecutor - despite round-the-clock police surveillance.

Luther's A Bit Good, then. Except no-one takes him seriously: the President's efforts to track him down consist of assigning two agents and a dizzy Chief Of Staff to the case. Surely, if your reputation (nay, liberty) was on the line - if you could be implicated in murder (not just a pants-down dalliance) - you'd fabricate a trumped-up charge, brand Whitney a fugitive and set the considerable might of the FBI and CIA on his arse? But no.

Annoying plot holes and mollusc pace aside, there's much that's good about Absolute Power. Oddly for a political thriller, lots of time is spent on the protagonist's relationship with his daughter - sounds dull, but (generally) isn't. The script's sweeping side-swipes at political sleaze (based on Clinton's alleged sexual hi-jinks, and amusingly current in the UK) may be luridly OTT, but they make their point, and there are strong performances. As expected, the camera worships Clint, but the real standout is Ed Harris, who gives an excellent turn as the confused cop investigating Christy Sullivan's murder. Less memorable are Gene Hackman, who swans in and out of the movie as the worried President, and Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert as the secret agents - smile-free and resolutely monotone.

Not blockbuster material, but better than your average thriller, Absolute Power is likely to be remembered as fondly as, say, In The Line Of Fire - not classic Clint, but no dog either. On the vertical-thumbs side: a robust cast; intelligent treatment of father-daughter relationships; strong central idea; genuinely tense scenes; Clint. The negative: far too many gaily flapping plot holes; and... it... moves... like... this.

Can Clint beat an all-powerful government? We're not saying.

Verdict:

With the rip-roaring pace of a limbless tortoise, Absolute Power needs Clint's phenomenal presence. It's let down by a wildly implausible script, too, but it's still enjoyable, and the sleaze theme is nothing if not timely. No Unforgiven, but no Rookie either.

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      Feb 3rd 2011, 8:40

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