(director: Clint Eastwood; screenwriter: William Goldman; cinematography: Jack N. Green; editor: Joel Cox; cast: Clint Eastwood (Luther Whitney), Gene Hackman (President Richmond), Ed Harris (Seth Frank), Laura Linney (Luther’s daughter), Judy Davis (Gloria), Scott Glenn (Secret Service Agent), Dennis Haysbert (Secret Service Agent), E.G. Marshall (Sullivan), Melora Hardin (Mrs. Sullivan); Runtime: 120; Columbia Pictures; 1997)


…this film wastes splendid acting jobs by Clint, Ed, and Scott.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

For three-quarters of the film an exciting and somewhat plausible thriller, that is even occasionally intriguing. Then it comes apart and turns into a routine Hollywood cop-out. The film wastes splendid acting jobs by Clint, Ed, and Scott.

Clint is Luther Whitney, a renowned thief who finds his way into the hidden vault of the billionaire Sullivan’s (E.G. Marshall) mansion and robs him of his jewels and cash. But complications arise while Luther hides in the vault, looking out from behind a one-way mirror, and Mrs. Sullivan (Melora Hardin) comes home inebriated and begins having rough sex with Alan Richmond (Gene Hackman). He happens to be the President of the United States. Things get out of hand and when the two Secret Service agents (Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert) see that the President is about to get knifed, they shoot Mrs. Sullivan. Gloria Russell (Judy Davis), the President’s Chief of Staff, then starts the cover-up rolling. The result is that Luther has to go on the run.

What remains entertaining is that the bad-good guy, Luther, is being chased by the good-bad guy, Alan, while the good-good guy, the chief police investigator in the homicide and robbery, Seth Frank (Ed Harris), tries to unravel the mystery. It is no mystery to the audience, because they saw exactly what happened. So what this film is all about is the amorality of the President and the absolute power he wields; and, the cat-and-mouse games among the police and Secret Service, and Luther. There is also some romance going on, but of the blandest kind imaginable, between Clint’s estranged daughter (Laura) with Seth Frank.

It is watchable hokum, with a hardly credible story, getting by solely on solid acting jobs from the leads. The script calls for no bold statements about the politics of the White House, which makes the film purposeless. Yet, the film is bearable, fortunate to be in the hands of someone as deft as Clint; or else, with a lesser director, it could have certainly sunk to an abysmally lower level. Though one wouldn’t be far wrong thinking it has already sunk to that level.

REVIEWED ON 1/31/99 GRADE: C-  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/