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'Absolute Power' no absolute winner

Eastwood

From Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

February 14, 1997
Web posted at: 4:45 p.m. EST

(CNN) -- "Absolute Power" is an entertaining thriller that pits a master thief against the minions of a corrupt U.S. president. Clint Eastwood pulls double duty, directing as well as starring.

The flick revolves around sex, presidential politics and murder -- a wild premise based on the best-selling novel by David Baldacci.

movie icon (782K/21 sec. QuickTime movie) - "Absolute Power" clip
movie icon (3.5M/1:38 sec. QuickTime movie) - "Absolute Power" trailer

In the movie, a veteran burglar, played by Eastwood, witnesses a murder while trying to pull off the heist of his career.

Hackman

The only problem: The killers are a pair of Secret Service men (Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert) and the woman who was slain was in the middle of a rough sex scene with the president (Gene Hackman) when she was knocked off.

A cover-up ensues, thanks to the crafty work of the White House chief of staff (Judy Davis). And in no time at all, the cops, the Secret Service and a paid assassin are after Eastwood's hide.

Unlike other action heroes who might try to resolve the dicey situation with bullets, brawn and macho bravado, Eastwood uses his character's brains, instincts and experience to elude the feds.

Harris and  Eastwood

Acting-wise, Eastwood, 66, is in top form, particularly in scenes with co-actor Ed Harris, who plays the straight-laced homicide cop assigned to the murder.

Glenn and Haysbert put in fine performances as well, although neither of their characters fully develop. Hackman's performance as the adulterous chief executive is undercut by several utterly absurd sequences, most notably when he and Davis waltz around a White House party discussing the murder and cover-up.

Davis, incidentally, is a real disappointment -- doing little more than flouncing about and flaring her nostrils.

bloody letter opener

William Goldman's script is dotted with plot holes, but his dialogue is cleverly crafted with a dark, humorous cynicism running throughout.

Eastwood's no-nonsense direction works well in many scenes. But his bare-bones approach in the presidential scenes look cheap and underpopulated. Director Eastwood also has problems sustaining the level of suspense. The final payoff: an off-screen fizzle.

"Absolute Power" is not a "must-see." But if you're looking for a well-made, grown-up movie, it's worth your time and money.

The movie is rated R for its sexual content, violence and profanity.

 
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