Blood Work

(2002) ** R
110 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Clint Eastwood. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh.

Most late-period Clint Eastwood films have a shambling and even loopy quality to them, and Blood Work is no exception. Eastwood has managed to convincingly hold back time for the string of well-produced, offbeat thrillers he's made over the last decade, but this vehicle—the cinematic equivalent of a supermarket paperback—plays like the best-ever episode of Matlock rather than a truly distinguished feature film.

Though highly unlikely, the intriguing gimmick of Blood Work and its thematic extrapolations momentarily offer flashes of novelty. Eastwood plays retired FBI agent Terry McCaleb, the kind of guy killers just love to taunt. McCaleb retired after, in pursuit of a suspect, his heart gave out; now, with a new ticker, he's trying to stay out of trouble. But when the sister (Wanda De Jesus) of his organ donor shows up and asks him to solve her murder, what can squinty Clint do but (guiltily) saddle up once more?In heart doc Angelica Huston, neighbor Jeff Daniels, and cops Paul Rodriguez and Dylan Walsh, Eastwood has fine support and a reasonable number of suspects lying in wait for the big reveal. Eastwood remains a wholly magnetic personality, and Daniels gets consistent laughs as his "partner" Buddy.

Unfortunately, the twist seems obvious long before it appears, leaving Eastwood to noodle by wanly evoking Vertigo (Clint's end-to-end chest clutching is all build-up with little payoff), drumming up a genuinely disturbing photo-negative dream sequence, and pausing for some nutty humor involving donuts or McCaleb's newfound Mexican heritage (seemingly, a winking reflection of Eastwood's marriage to Dina Ruiz). Even the Eastwood faithful may recoil from the obvious swapping of stuntmen for Clint, or the twin affections of not one but two stand-up dames. (Vertigo fans, incidentally, should take note that veteran Henry Bumstead did the production design for both films.) There's nothing particularly wrong with Eastwood's typically professional and idiosyncratic style, which holds interest even though the formula outweighs the premise. But there's no question that faint praise damns the routine Blood Work.

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/5/2012

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Blood Work circulates onto Blu-ray in another fine Warner catalog release. A/V specs are excellent here, with a 2:40:1 hi-def transfer that's clean and tight, with vivid color and a filmic look with natural, fine grain. Detail and textures impress all around, and contrast and black level tend to be effective (just with a bit of breakup in low-light photography). The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation pleases in equal measure, ably handling music, effects and dialogue in sensible balance and providing a properly immersive experience with nuanced ambience and extra punch where required. Hands down, this disc trumps its DVD counterpart, which is entirely the point with such a release.

I'm sure no one would watch "Making Blood Work" (18:08, SD) before seeing the movie itself, but just in case, be aware there's a major spoiler in this featurette. Aside from that, this EPK-style featurette serves up the usual in behind-the-scenes glimpses and cast and crew interviews, including clips of Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesús, and Paul Rodriguez.

Less usual is "A Conversation in Spanish with Clint Eastwood, Wanda De Jesús, and Paul Rodriguez" (14:18, SD), which has a smattering of chat in English but mostly delivers as promised (with subtitles) as the director and his cast chat about the film.

Also included are the film's "Teaser Trailer" (:54, SD) and "Theatrical Trailer" (1:34, SD). With Warner's reissues of this film and A Perfect World, Warner Home Video creeps ever closer to bringing Clint's entire Warner Brothers output to hi-def.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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