Absolute Power - Rated: TEPID

A new Clint Eastwood film is something I always anticipate eagerly. Unforgiven is, I think, a modern movie classic. Unfortunately, Absolute Power is not absolutely powerful. It does have a great cast (including Gene Hackman, Ed Harris (a personal fave) Scott Glenn, Judy Davis and Clint himself. All these actors give strong performances, except for Judy Davis- more about that later. It does have one of the all-time greats of screenwriting - William Goldman (whose sceenplays include Marathon Man - "is is safe?" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the Presidents Men, and Chaplin. Unfortunately, Goldman is a little off form here, although his dialogue works, and there are some cute script moments, such as those commenting on Clint and his age, and some good Dirty Harry-type lines. The script has a great central premise, and some interesting characters, but more than a few wholes in the plot.

Still, I really think it is Clint who is at fault here. The direction is very weird. The opening sequences, which should be taut and suspenseful, are sometimes taut and sometimes boring! Even the rough sex scenes bored me. And that's in the first half hour. There are many dreadful cutaways to Clint looking appalled, and I kept thinking he had forgotten how to act. Looking impassive has always been his stong suit, and when he tries to do "apprehensive" or "shocked" here, it just looks silly. He's done something wrong with the pacing of the film, so that the setup is really long and drawn out, and the denouement is over in a couple of moments. But there is some really serious stuff going on in the denouement, and we aren't given a chance to take it in.

Also, Clint the auteur is not content just to direct, produce and star. Now he must write the film's score as well. This filled me with apprehension, because you'll remember Clint's last contribution to film music - "I Torture the Trees" from Paint Your Wagon! You know how people who have desktop publishing software begin to think they are graphic artists? Well Clint's bought a computer programme for composers and now thinks he's Bernard Herrman! He isn't. The music is bad. Really bad. And really loud. Clearly even his best friends didn't tell him.

Another thing Clint's best friends didn't tell him was to get Judy Davis to pull her head in. She plays her part as broad farce, with much mugging, and the tone of her performance is at odds with the tone of most of the rest of the film. To be fair, though, Gene Hackman aids and abets her a bit. In fact, in the ludicrous dance sequence, I'd be willing to bet they's had a couple of drinks in rehearsal!

Its's a shame, because this could have been a much more interesting film than it turns out to be.