Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 52: Tightrope (1984)

R, 1 hr. 57 min. Directed by: Richard Tuggle. Release Date: August 17, 1984. DVD Release Date: September 2, 2003. 

Do you ever get the feeling that occasionally, when you break down and violate a long-established pattern in your life, that whatever powers that be out there totally mock you? I felt that way today after having watched Tightrope. Lately, I haven't been disliking Clint Eastwood's movies as much as I told myself I did: I found some intellectual satisfaction amidst the angst of Million Dollar Baby, I reveled in the power of Gran Torino's pro-tolerance message, and I was pretty close to apoplectic over the greatness of Invictus. Yes, that last one's a bit of a cheat since Eastwood was behind the camera and not in front of it, but still, it got me to disregard my rule. I probably shouldn't have. I should have remembered that the whole 'Dirty Harry' thing wasn't exactly something that caught my attention… or interest. I'm even sorrier that this is how I started my day. Blech.

When I was a kid, there was a TV show called Hunter. It was on late on (I think) Saturday nights, maybe at 10 or 11. I'd watch it occasionally if I had come in early or hadn't bothered to go out for the night, which happened more often than I care to admit. The show was this gritty cop drama, filled with ugly people pretending they were sexy. Sometimes they had good, kind of scary episodes, and sometimes the show was so tedious I'd actually go to bed before midnight rather than watch the damned thing. Even if you don't remember Hunter, you probably know the type of show I'm talking about: Silk Stalkings, back in the 90s was close, although everyone there was pretty. I think most of us don't watch cop dramas for the nookie, but occasionally Hollywood gets it wrong. Tightrope felt a bit like Hunter to me. Ugly people (sorry Clint) being overly sexualized in a darkened, grainy kind of atmosphere that left… well, it left a lot to be desired. I suspect this wasn't exactly Eastwood's seminal role as (yet another) tough as nails street cop. Lord knows, by '84 the man should have been playing such a role for nearly 20 years, so you'd think he'd have it down and polished… but I didn't see that.

I suspect the modern TV cop dramas have me a bit spoiled. If you're investigating serial killer, I'm less concerned about how the lead detective spends his evenings in the company of… ladies of the evening, and more concerned about the evidence, the profiling (although I realize that profiling is in decline), and the forensic gathering of evidence at the crime scene. I saw some of that last bit discussed, but it felt as if the discussion was a decade or more ahead of where your average big city police department would have been in the mid-80s. It probably wasn't anachronistic, or at least not very much so, but since I was only seven when this movie was made, I don't have any way to know. I suspect that in many ways, this would have better if the story had focused more on the serial killer and less on the sorted behavior of the star.

Really, this wasn't terrible, but at two hours, it was very long in the same way that that Brooklyn's Finest was long. In both of these movies, I was ready to seppuku myself by the time the end credits appeared. If they'd cut out everything that didn't have to do with character development or the murder story line, they probably would have come out at about 90 minutes, and had a much better performance and story to boot. Tightrope has potential, but none of it was realized.

Oh… is anyone else worried about Clint Eastwood raising two small girls and a pack of dogs?