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Matt Gerson's "Angle on Movies"

Absolute Power

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I’m Matt Gerson with four out of five Angles for Absolute Power, a boning and gutting of the Washington, D. C. power structure, without the Kevin Costner romance, overdone interlude of this remake of No Way Out, starring Gene “The Richard the Third of Presidents” Hackman and Clint Eastwood the lovable rogue, the straight arrow who saves everyone who counts, plot holes and leaps of imagination be damned in Absolute Power.

This White House morals of Macbeth wasteland, complete with bloody knife and evil president, this time aided by a driven Haldeman-type chief of staff, played by Judy Davis, instead of his Lady Macbeth wife, is cleverly written at times by William (All the President’s Men) Goldman, when his and Clint Eastwood’s patented same challenging style of slow takes, a jewel robbery of a kingmaker’s mansion of gallery-ready art pieces and jewelry, fit for Liz Taylor, by Luther Whitney, Clint Eastwood’s character—that, with endless takes of bystander reaction at the wrong time doing the crime Luther, who witnesses no less than President Richmond (Gene Hackman) turning his sexual peccadilloes a la Clinton into a vengeful murder of a young lovely who turns out to be wife to none other than octogenarian and insider with instant access to the power of the presidency even Dick Morris never approached, crusty Walter Sullivan, played by E. G. Marshall.

Is the pot boiling enough for you yet?

The opening scene with endless, rather inert gazes at Clint Eastwood watching the absolute power and license to kill from Mr. President, even his oldest friend’s wives, in Bimboism run amok, underwhelms us, due to the studied, eyes move but so little else visage of Clint the minimalist to the marrow actor, but William Goldman’s plot twists, some predictable, Luther/Clint will survive every ambush, even from crossfire by two of the best marksmen lying in wait, waiting for him.

Some of the plot twists are very entertaining, featuring Ed Harris as Detective Seth Frank, in charge of the investigation, who meets Luther and they play cat and mouse in a lively dialogue, funny and emotive for a Clint Eastwood movie about the by now whittling down suspect list to the master jewel thief turned prime suspect, who just happens to live in Washington DC, scene of the burglarly turned ugly into murder, Luther Whitney, in a not to surprisingly understated sequence, featuring two ex-Marine heroes, whose respect in battling with Harris’s detective instincts gnawing at him that Luther could have gotten away by rope out the window, even with his disability status as a veteran.

But the heroic nick of the time usual improbabilities, chasing our dreaming up answers for them, of murders by the guilty parties prevented, of suddenly implicated due to her father, Laura [?] as Kate Whitney, always in that proverbial nick of time again, of Laura surviving a one hundred foot or more car crash, as the baddies, organized by ethics of a tyrannasaurus rex, king and habitual rapist President Richmond, in a final showdown filling in the bloody pieces with Walter Sulllivan by Luther somehow out of the blue adopting a limo driver’s garb and taking a rich and mighty victim for the plot dislosure ride of his life.

The line between “we can figure it out” and simply unbelievability is crossed over with the plot mechanics riddled script of William Goldman, which is very odd in such a renowned screenwriter, and the mystery is not that anything can happen in DC—look at Clinton, whose teflon revisited parade of morals NOT—but that Clint Eastwood covers his tracks so well.

We all too often are scratching our head in wonder of why plots with such bravura underacted scenes can be so funny, while the next ones pile up doubts about too many creaking mysteries, setting up too many super thief with a heart of, you know—voyeuristic gold (witness the opening scenes)—strains our credibility that he could manage them.

But on the whole, Absolute Power is going to put a gaping hole in the wallets of one hundred million plus dollars, in my prediction, to the successor in spirit of rape and dark machinations and pervasive evil, reminding us of No Way Out and [The] Unforgiven, both with Gene Hackman, who here is out of control, but covering his butt by wrapping his presidential privilege to mayhem in an odyssey of defeat.

I’m Matt Gerson with four out of five Angles for Clint as a noble hero, a bit wayward, but finally, of course, unravelling the Beltway of power to its very core.

I’m Matt Gerson with my Angle on Absolute Power.

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