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There's nothing like a good ol' fashioned thriller mystery and Blood Work fits into this much abused genre admirably ... they just don't make 'em like they used to anymore.  Today's intelligent movie-going audiences are finding it easier to outwit the filmmakers as they themselves attempting to outsmart us with what is admittedly only a limited number of usable plot devices.  But this film in particular has proven to be more entertaining than most of the so-called "who-dun-its" that tend to reveal much more than should be allowed too soon.  And with some films, the attempt to hide a poor script by utilising blindingly explosive creations is simply inexcusable ... there is more and more emphasis these days on trying to impress us purely with the "whiz-bang appeal factor" and it really is losing interest for me very quickly.

Blood Work
The scripting though for Blood Work holds up very well since we get to see how each piece of info is derived through careful deduction methodology (ie  finding out the modus operandi).  However, there may be a few instances when some viewers may very well beat the characters to the punch, but you'll probably be enjoying the ride just long enough so that this won't seem quite as important to you in the end.  Speaking of endings (spoiler time!), near when the murderer's identity is uncovered the story begins to fall into the trap of bothersome predictability ... motivational logic is irrational at best and the finale somehow comes off as way too neat and cosy (and easy) compared to the events that preceded it.

If there's one thing that Clint Eastwood just cannot avoid from his acting career is the Dirty Harry persona (unlike Sean Connery who at least has managed to shake off his alter ego of James Bond, but then all he had to do was grow a beard).  The police headquarters almost have the same bareness to them as the ones Callahan occupied in the 1970s, some of the characters are still portrayed as either inept or uninterested in the case (or both) and Clint Eastwood still carries a revolver (an upgraded model though) to dispatch with any unsavoury types: an eight-shot Smith & Wesson rather than the six-shootin' Magnum cannon he used to sport.

The other element that could have been dealt with a bit better was the use of Paul Rodriguez who plays the rival investigative cop Arrango since his role ultimately becomes little more than cameo comic-relief.

Blood Work
Movie
Terry McCaleb (Clint Eastwood) is currently a retired but still famous FBI detective whose last on-field assignment two years ago was to track down the notorious serial killer nicknamed the "Code Killer" for his propensity to leave cryptically written clues for his favourite investigator.  McCaleb suffered a heart attack as he chased down a suspect who was present at this very crime scene.

McCaleb has now finally had a heart-replacement operation, the delays for which were attributed to his rare blood-type and the difficulty of matching him to a compatible donor, the procedure being overseen by his doctor Bonnie Fox (Anjelica Huston).  An Hispanic woman Graciella Rivers (Wanda De Jesús) soon enters his life as she tells him that his new heart was most likely that of her sister's who was murdered recently, she asks for his help to track down the killer.  As his unofficial investigation progresses he soon learns that there may be a connection to a previous murder in the area which somehow also leads back to the one he was involved with in the FBI.

McCaleb seeks the help of reluctant Hispanic Police Detective Ronaldo Arrango (Paul Rodriguez), his friend in law-enforcement Jaye Winston (Tina Lifford) as well as the inquisitive boat-neighbour Jasper 'Buddy' Noone (Jeff Daniels) who more or less drives McCaleb around since he has to be careful of his current physical condition.  As twist after twist ensues he gets ever closer to the truth, only to find that his connection to the case is more involving than he could have possibly imagined.

Video
Very serviceable and clean to say the least, however there are some cinematographic errors that shouldn't really have occurred which unfortunately hampers some of the events that take place in the film.

Blood Work
The colours are consistent yet diverse in tonal arrangement depending on the scene in question, ranging from basic muted hues to absorbing warm and cold tints.  Nearly all the spectrums of day, dusk, night, city and harbor scenes are portrayed here so variety is definitely not a victim in this film.  Black levels are probably one or two steps off from becoming truly deep, but shadow detail suffers in some places like the initial opening sequence where the blood-soaked writing on the walls becomes lost in all the darkness (a wandering flashlight could have been used to highlight this sequence at least).

Grain is barely visible in most scenes and low-level noise is a very welcome omission to the image, considering the many different lighting conditions that take place.  Focus is as sharp as they come so none of the detail goes begging (except again in some of the shadows).  Film and digital artifacts are almost absent with the bitrate high enough to keep any potential nasties from popping through.

Audio
All three soundmixes of English, French and Italian are in Dolby Digital 5.1 and are equally comparable with each other in terms of the same sound elements being produced, except for the spoken languages of course.  This is an underwhelming but effective mix for a mainly dialogue-driven movie.

Full support to the surround channels and subwoofer has been afforded to the soundtrack with effective ambience as well as occasional blasts of thunderous gunfire filtering through to all speakers.  Dialogue is easily decipherable with English being recorded on-set and the other languages redubbed in the studio which unfortunately seem out of place within the aural environment of the movie - this seems to be a common trait with these Warner Bros produced soundtracks.

Blood Work
Also, near the end of the movie Detective Arrango starts to curse in Spanish for both the English and Italian soundtracks, however the French dub has him swearing in French.  This wouldn't be so much of an issue had the following comment not occur with McCaleb being amazed about Arrango's ability to speak Spanish, so therefore the logic will be lost on those who will watch this movie in French.

Extras
I'd just like to say that you should not view this supplemental material before seeing the movie proper - I walked right into the main featurette not realising that halfway through I would get hit on the head with a major spoiler - these sorts of things should come with a health warning on the package!

There are two featurettes, the first one being Making Blood Work which is 18 minutes of interviews and behind the scenes footage - the actors talk about their characters as well as Clint Eastwood discussing the challenges of directing and acting in the same movie.  The other one is slightly shorter at 14 minutes entitled A Conversation In Spanish - similar in style to the first featurette but primarily involving the two Hispanic actors speaking in their native tongue (thankfully it does glean new information about the film) - I guess this was produced for the benefit of their home town people.

These discussions in Spanish suggest that this movie was almost revolutionary as it now portrayed Hispanic people as they are truly like in real life for the first time, rather than the typical Hollywood stereotypes of previous films.  But even this fact doesn't seem to serve much towards the plot as a whole since I'm sure that you could have planted any other culture in its place to serve in the motivations of searching out the killer of one of their own.

Blood Work
There is the ever-shrinking Cast & Crew one-page special from our friends at Warner Bros (it's two pages actually but it could just have easily been one) as well as the Theatrical Teaser & Trailer.

Overall
This film is well above the norm for the genre, albeit with certain elements that would make the average spy-novel enthusiast scoff at the somewhat obvious reveals.  But there have just been too many failed attempts by filmmakers lately to provide any decent mystery that you weren't able to solve within the first ten or fifteen minutes (Minority Report anyone?)  This usually happens as the "process of elimination" has already been worked out for you ahead of time (unintentionally I assume ;) so that you can pretty much work out the plot in a flash.  Then again, the same could be said for when you only have a few main characters on the screen which then cuts down on the odds significantly too.

Either way, I'm sure that some of you will find this movie a rare treat if you enjoy the traditional aspect of thorough investigative practices, this still manages to hold a life all of its own even in the 21st century ... not like the plot less attempts from today's popular celluloid productions.  I can't exactly vouch for the replay value of this movie since it's not nearly the masterpiece that The Usual Suspects was, but unless you are a die-hard Clint Eastwood fan then you should just give this one a rental and decide for yourself.


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