Top critical review
Eastwood has given us a number of good films over the years; this isn't particularly one of them
on June 19, 2015
This is not another "Dirty Harry" movie. Clint Eastwood may direct and star in this 1990 release; he may play a tough, hard-nosed, maverick police detective; and he may be breaking in a new partner in an action-adventure thriller, but any similarity to the character Eastwood left behind several years before is purely coincidental.
Besides, Eastwood isn't detective Harry Callahan this time out; he's detective Nick Pulovski. And he doesn't work for the San Francisco Police Department; he works for the Los Angeles Police Department. And he isn't a homicide detective; he's a car-theft detective. And his new partner isn't a rookie woman; he's a rookie man.
See all the differences? Not convinced, huh? I can't imagine the movie fooling any audience, either.
OK, maybe Eastwood was just having an off day. Maybe he hadn't hit his stride yet with an Oscar for "Unforgiven" in 1992. Maybe he wanted to go back and do another "Dirty Harry" just one more time but thought he'd better do it under a different guise. In any case, "The Rookie" may be the weakest, most-implausible, most-vacuous, most-formulaic film Eastwood ever directed. Of course, if that's what you're looking for in a film, I suppose it works fine.
Nick needs a new partner when his old partner gets killed. I tell you, Nick has got to be at least a distant cousin to Harry. So the department assigns him David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen), a young, straight-arrow, by-the-book type of cop who has only been on the force for two years. David comes from a filthy rich family and has a degree in engineering, but because of a guilt complex over the death of his kid brother many years before, he's decided to devote his life to doing good. Oh, dear. It's going to be that kind of movie. The guy can fix anything from a motorcycle to an electronic listening device with the touch of a finger, but he can't fix his private life or his personal demons.
An opening freeway car chase sets the movie's tone, lacking originality and substituting loudness for excitement. Nick's after his ex-partner's killer, which conveniently fits in with his job since the killer is the murderous head of a car-theft ring. Raul Julia plays the baddie, the head of the car-theft ring, a fellow named Strom, supposedly German, who speaks in a ridiculously bad German accent. A Puerto Rican German? A Brazilian or Argentinean German? Maybe he's a Nazi. Who knows. It's embarrassing, and this splendid actor has virtually nothing worthwhile to do. His character isn't even very menacing, just vicious. Sonia Braga plays his gun moll, Liesl, who's even meaner and stranger than he is. Like the characters Eastwood and Sheen play, Julia and Braga have to endure playing cartoon characters.
Much of the film's action is downright dumb, too. For instance, there are two scenes in a roadhouse biker bar full of the most-disreputable hoodlums, thugs, goons, and degenerates you ever saw, so overdone the scenes look like parodies from "Airplane."
Tom Skerrett plays David's dad, and Lara Flynn Boyle plays David's wife, both performers barely getting any meaningful screen time. And, as I've said, Eastwood is basically just playing Eastwood again, so what you've got is not only empty, it's empty-headed.
Yet it's more of Sheen's movie than it is Eastwood's, as the title indicates. Sheen begins to take charge of things about a third of the way into the story and then pretty much commands our attention throughout the entire second half. Depending on how you feel about Charlie Sheen's acting style, you'll either appreciate his presence or loathe it.
The dialogue in "The Rookie" is corny, the action is predictable, and the characters are one-dimensional. It's all pretty disappointing for a Clint Eastwood film, undoubtedly one of the low points of his directing career. What's more, Lennie Niehaus's music sounds like every jazz-inflected score Eastwood used in his films for the previous twenty years. As I say, oh, dear.
The screen ratio is a very wide 2.40:1, and the video engineers use a VC-1 codec and a single-layer BD25 to reproduce it. Most of the darker scenes, of which there are many, look soft, murky, and veiled. Delineation is better than standard definition, to be sure, but not by as much as we notice in other Blu-ray releases. Black levels could generally be deeper, and while a little natural film grain provides an appealing texture, a little print damage and noise often make the image look rough. A few scenes, though, come to life in brilliant clarity and color. Go figure.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound reproduction does what it can with sonics that don't aspire to much in the first place. There is not a lot of surround at any time, not even much musical ambient reinforcement, and the frequency and dynamic ranges are only average except during one big explosion. The strengths are in its well-balanced midrange response and its wide front-channel stereo spread. I suppose it's enough, just not very inspiring.
You get a standard-definition widescreen theatrical trailer. Basically, that's about all there is. The rest of the extras are of the common variety: You get thirty-five scene selections; English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, German, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and other subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
You win some and you lose some. Clint Eastwood has given us any number of good films over the years, both as an actor and as a director. "The Rookie" is not one of them.